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Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah j Maas

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

House of Earth and Blood

by Sarah J Maas

Published by Bloomsbury

Book 1 in the Crescent City Series

Bound by blood.

Tempted by desire.

Unleashed by destiny.

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

With unforgettable characters, sizzling romance, and page-turning suspense, this richly inventive new fantasy series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas delves into the heartache of loss, the price of freedom—and the power of love.


Violent #UrbanFantasy Thrilling

Steamy #Mystery Intense


House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas, the first book in her Crescent City Series, centers around Bryce Quinlan, a party girl who's life changes overnight when her best friends are brutally murdered. When the murders start up again, two years after the supposed killer was caught, she is paired up with Hunt Athalar, a Fallen Angel who is currently enslaved to the archangels he tried to overthrow. She gets a chance to get revenge on the murders that turned her into a shell of who she once was. He is offered something he wants more than anything if the murderer is found: his freedom. Together, they investigate and not only learn the truth in the dark city, but learn more about themselves, and each other.

So I was warned ahead of time that this book starts off a bit slow. It's a fantasy. This is a very intricate world, and there is a lot of world building, along with a lot of characters, that need to be built up before the story moves along. You'll understand why by the end. I promise. It took me a good ten chapters to get into House of Earth and Blood. Normally, this would be points against it for me, but not in this one! BUT IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THIS BOOK YET, PLEASE KNOW, YOU ARE MEANT TO BE CONFUSED. Don't give up on it.

In fact, if you have read this book, and are still confused about the world, check out this reddit that explains it for you!

So. Thoughts. I have never read a fantasy so fucking ... original. I mean, yes ... we get your normal supernatural species. Angels and demons, fae and witches, shifters and humans ... we have a high class and lower class, etc ... BUT I swear Sarah adds some elements to her characters and world that changes things up in a big way. The unique touches to this world that Sarah adds to the story makes House of Earth and Blood just absolutely delicious. And the story? The mystery? While at points there seemed to be random bits of information that were added to the story for no reason at all, it all comes full circle, and it's fucking. Epic. One of the best things of House of Earth and Blood? The unpredictability of it. I usually do figure out things before the end, and I didn't figure out ANY of what happens in this book.

I'm still in shock.

Another reason this book is, again, EPIC, is because the characters are written so incredibly well. Our two main characters, especially so. Both are emotionally broken, and flawed characters, that make mistakes. I love characters that are not written perfectly, and we get that here. Bryce definitely makes mistakes, but she is also an incredibly empathetic person. Very loving. She lets people think the worst of her though, so there are a lot of misconceptions about her. Hunt is very much the same, but has the added misfortune of being a slave, and struggling with wanting to be free, but also wanting to be free from a corrupt republic. And I gotta say ... holy fuck, the chemistry between these two is INSANE! I swear I was sweating most of this book.

I swear if Sarah "Tamlin's" us with Hunt, I will riot.

The side characters in this book are equally amazing. Believe me, that doesn't mean I like 95% of them. Most of them are brutal. But we have characters we can't help but love and root for as well. Like Ruhn. I have a huge soft spot for Ruhn. There were quite a few moments where I wanted to shake Bryce because, hey, be nice to your brother. He freaking loves you. There are characters I have been left incredibly curious about as well ... like a certain demon prince ...

Can I just say that trying to write about this book and not give anything away is so incredibly hard? It's INSANE how hard it is. So if this review comes out weird and vague, it's only because I don't want to ruin the book for you if you haven't read it yet. Which, if you haven't yet, why the fuck not? Buy it now!

House of Earth and Blood was a very surprising book to me. It took a while to get into, but once things started to piece together, and we get the bigger picture, woven with some amazing character development and INTENSE chemistry, House of Earth and Blood was epic. Truly. It blew my freaking mind. I'm putting it up there with A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire (which is my top book of the year atm). It's obvious at this point what my rating will be, but I implore you, READ THIS BOOK!

Danika: "I told you I was sorry I ate your leftover noodles. I'll buy you more tonight."

Bryce: "It's not that, dumbass, though again: fuck you."

Danika: "Come on, B. Don't be a wimp."

Bryce sighed, and set her hand on the pad.

Bryce: "I wish Danika would get a manicure. Her nails look like shit."

Lightning zapped through her, a slight vacuuming around her belly button, and then Danika laughing, shoving her.

Danika: You fucking dick."

Danika: If he grabs his phone to check his messages before his dick's barely out of you again, please have the self-respect to kick his balls across the room and come home to me."

Bryce: "Fucking Hel, Danika! Say it a little gods-damned louder."

Danika: "I bet fifty silver marks the bouncers don't let you through the doors looking like that."

Bryce flipped off her friend as the pack chuckled

Bryce: "I'm sorry if I make you feel self-conscious about your bony ass, Danika."

Connor: "Look. We've known each other a while ..."

Bryce: "Is this a rehearsed speech?"

He straightened, color straining his cheeks. The Second in the Pack of Devils, the most feared and lethal of all the Auxiliary units, was blushing.

Connor: "No."

Bryce: "That sounded like a rehearsed introduction to me.

Connor: "Can you let me ask you out, or do I need to get into a fight with you about my phrasing first?"

She snorted, but her guts twisted

Bryce: "I don't date wolves."

Connor threw her a cocky grin.

Connor: "Make an exception."

Danika: "Light it up, bitch."

Bryce: "Light it up, asshole."

Bryce: "Like what you see?"

The female gave her a sweeping glance, from Bryce's heels to her red hair to the bottle of wine dangling from her fingers. The fae female shrugged, setting the black stones in her long dress sparkling.

Fae: "I'll pay a gold mark to watch you two."

She inclined her head to the human at her table.

He offered Bryce a smile, his vacant face suggesting he was soaring high on some drug.

Bryce smirked at the female.

Bryce: "I didn't know Fae females had gotten so cheap. Word on the street used to be that you'd pay us gold by the armful to pretend you're not lifeless as Reapers between the sheets."

Text messages

Bryce: Pizza. Saturday night at six. If you're late, it's over.

Connor: I'll never keep you waiting.

Text message:

Bryce: Good luck handling Danika.

Connor: She's telling me the same about you.

Connor: You won't regret this. I've had a long while to figure out all the ways I'm going to spoil you. All the fun we're going to have.

Bryce: Stalker.

Connor: Go enjoy yourself. I'll see you in a few days. Message me when your home safe.

Ruhn: "Keep talking, Athalar. Let's see where it gets you."

Hunt smirked

Hunt: "I'm shaking."

Bryce: "I didn't know Daddy bothered to care about my safety."

Ruhn: "He doesn't. But I'll make him care about it."

Isaiah: "This is a matter of some urgency, Miss Quinlan."

A low hum.

Bryce: "I'msorry, but you'll have to make an appointment. How about ... three w eeks? I've got the twenty-eighth of April free. I'll pencil you in for noon."

Well, she had balls, Hunt would give her that much.

Bryce only smiled again, as if she hasn't heard a damn word he said. But then she hit some button beside the door that had the enchantments burning like acid -

Hunt jumped back, his lightning flaring, defending against an enemy that was not there.

The door shut. She purred through the intercom.

Bryce: "I'll call you. Don't bother me until then."

Urd fucking spare him.

Jesaba: "When you nail Hunt Athalar's balls to the wall, will you do me a favor and take a picture?"

Hunt: "You have my number now. Call it if something goes wrong, or feels wrong, or if you need anything."

Bryce: "Like a pizza?"

She clearly saw the middle finger Hunt lifted above his head. Shadow of Death, indeed.

Bryce: "You would make a good delivery boy with those wings."

Hunt: "I'm going to be straight with you."

Bryce: "Goody."

His nostrils flared

Hunt: "I will do whatever the Hel it takes to solve this case. Even if it means tying you to a fucking chair until you write those lists."

She smirked

Bryce: "Bondage. Nice."

Hunt: "Do you own any weapons?"

The purely male gleam in his eye told her that he assumed she didn't

Bryce: "Bother me again, and you'll find out."

Hunt wondered how much trouble he'd get in if he chucked Bryce Quinlan into the Istros.

Hunt: "This is already a nightmare."

Isaiah coughed

Isaiah: "You watched Quinlan for one night."

Hunt: "Ten hours, to be exact. Right until her pet chimera just appeared next to me at dawn, bit me in the ass for looking like I was dozing off, and then vanished again - right back into the apartment. Just as Quinlan came out of her bedroom and opened the curtains to see me grabbing my own ass like a fucking idiot. Do you know how sharp a chimera's teeth are?"

Isaiah: "No."

Hunt: "When I flew over to explain, she blasted her music and ignored me like a fucking brat. I didn't see her again until she went for a run. She flipped me off as she left."

Isaiah: "So you went to Samson Street to brood? What's the emergency?"

Hunt: "The emergency, asshole, is that I might kill her before we find the real murderer."

Viper Queen: "Nice bodyguard."

Bryce shrugged as those snake's eyes dragged over every inch of Hunt.

Bryce: "Nothing going on upstairs, but everything happening where it counts."

Hunt stiffened

Viper Queen: "I've never heard Hunt Athalar described that way, but I'm sure the general appreciates it."

Viper Queen: "I was at the spa the night of Tertian's murder. And as for Danika and the Pack of Devils, one of my associates threw a Drop party for his daughter that night. Turned into three days of ... well, you'll see."

Hunt: "This drive contains footage of you at a three-day orgy?"

Viper Queen: "Let me know if it gets you hot and bothered, Athalar. I hear you're one Hel of a ride when you pause the brooding long enough."

Hunt: "You know, even a scooter is a dumb fucking thing to drive before making the Drop."

Bryce: "Thanks, Mom."

Hunt: "You should take the bus."

She just let out a barking laugh, and zoomed off into the night.

Lehabah: "He's dreamy."

Bryce: "Yeah, just ask him."

Lehabah: "Hunt's handsome enough to be on this show."

Lehabah pointed with a dainty tow toward the tablet propped before her.

Bryce: "Unfortunately, I don't think the size differences between you and Athalar would work in the bedroom. You're barely big enough to wrap your arms around his dick."

Smoke swirled around Lehabah at her puff of embarrassment, and the sprite waved her little hands to clear it away.

Lehabah: "BB!"

Bryce chuckled, then she gestured to the tablet.

Bryce: "I'm not the one who's bingeing a show that's basically porn with a plot. What's it called again? Fangs and Bangs?"

Lehabah turned purple

Lehabah: "It's not called that and you know it! And it's artistic. They make love. They don't ..."

She choked

Bruce: "Fuck?"

Lehabah: "Exactly."

Bryce laughed, letting it chase away the swarming ghosts of the pasts, and the sprite, despite her prudishness, joined her.

Bryce: "I doubt Hunt Athalar is the making love type."

Lehabah: "BB is cranky because she hasn't been able to make her list."

Bryce: "I'm cranky because I'm hungry and you've been a pain in my ass all morning."

Bryce: "Interesting. You think I should give him a heads-up that you're coming?"

Hunt's grin was pure wickedness

Hunt: "Hel no."

Ruhn: "I asked you to come. Not him."

Bryce linked her arm through Athalar's, the portrait they painted laughable: Bryce in her fancy work dress and heels, the angel in his black battle-suit.

Bryce: "We're joined at the hip now, unfortunately for you. Best, best friends."

Hunt: "The best."

Hunt echoes, his grin unfading.

Luna shoot him dead. This would not end well.

Hunt: "So you're saying you think I'm really an asshole?"

A corner of his mouth curled up.

Bryce: I've met and dealt with a lot of assholes, Hunt. You're not one of them."

Juniper: "So, the gorgeous angel who's making you coffee right now -"

Hunt grinned at the coffee machine.

Bryce: "No, no, and no. Jesiba is having me do a classified job, and Hunt was assigned to protect me."

Juniper: "Is being shirtless in your house part of that assignment?"

Bryce: "You know how these Vanir males are. They love to show off their muscles."

Hunt rolled his eyes as Juniper laughed.

Juniper: "I'm shocked you're even letting him stay here, B."

Bryce: "I didn't really have a choice."

Juniper: "Hmmm."

A thump of bare feet on the ground.

Bryce: "You know he's listening, right? His feathers are probably so puffed up he won't be able to fit through the door."

Hunt leaned against the counter, the coffee machine doing the growling for him as Bryce stalked into the hallway.

Hunt: "Puffed up?"

Bryce: "Isn't it exhausting to be an alphahole all the time? Do you guys have a handbook for it? Maybe secret support groups?"

Hunt: "An alpha-what?"

Bryce: "Alphahole. Possessive and aggressive."

She waved a hand at his bare torso.

Bryce: "You know - you males who rip your shirt off at the slightest provocation, who know how to kill people in twenty different ways, who have females falling over themselves to be with you; and when you finally bang one, you go full-on mating frenzy with her, refusing to let another male look at or talk to her, deciding what and when she needs to ear, what she should wear, when she sees her friends -"

Hunt: "What the fuck are you talking about?"

Bryce: "Your favorite hobbies are brooding, fighting, and roaring; you've perfected about thirty different types of snarls and growls; you've got a cabal of hot friends, and the moment one of you mates, the others fall like dominoes, too, and gods help you when you all start having babies -"

He snatched the croissant out of her hand. That shut her up.

Hunt: "One. The last thing I want to do is fuck you, so we can take the whole Sex, Mating, and Baby option off the table. Two, I don't have friends, do there sure as fuck will be no couples-retreat lifestyle anytime soon. Three, if we're complaining about people who are clothing-optional ..."

He finished the croissant and gave her a pointed look

Hunt: "I'm not the one who parades around this apartment in a bra and underwear every morning while getting dressed."

Bryce only glared at him - his mouth, his hand - and grumbled

Bryce: "That was my croissant."

Hunt: "You're going to get me a new set of keys. And add me to the enchantments. Because it's part of my job, and being assertive isn't the first sign of being an alphahole - it's a sign of me wanting to make sure you don't wind up dead."

Bryce: "Stop cursing so much. You're upsetting Syrinx."

Hunt: "You have the dirtiest mouth I've ever heard, sweetheart. And from the way you act, I think you might be the alphahole here."

She hissed

Hunt: "See? What was it you said? An assortment of snarls and growls? Well, there you go."

Bryce: "Don't ever eat my croissant again. And stop calling me sweetheart."

Bryce: "I made a wish here when I was thirteen - when I visited t he city for the first time. Ruhn took me."

Hunt: "What'd you wish for?"

Bryce: "For my boobs to get bigger."

A laugh burst out of him, chasing away any lingering shadows that talk of Sandriel dragged up. But Hunt avoided looking at Bryce's chest as he said

Hunt: "Seems you wish paid off, Quinlan."

Understatement. Big, fucking, lace-covered understatement.

She chuckled

Bryce: "Crescent City: Where dreams come true."

Hunt elbowed her ribs, unable to stop himself from making physical contact.

Bryce: "What would you wish for, if you knew it'd come true?"

Hunt: "Since I'm perfectly happy with the size of my assets, I'd wish for you to stop being such a pain in my ass."

Bryce: "Jerk."

Ruhn: "You got something to say, Athalar?"

Hunt: "She said it all."

Bryce: "What's the deal with you two?"

Lehabah: "Oh, do tell."

Hunt: "We beat the shit out of each other at a party. Danaan's still sore about it."

Bryce's grin was the definition of shit-eating

Bryce: "Why'd you fight?"

Ruhn: "Because he's an arrogant asshole."

Hunt: "Likewise."

Bryce threw Lehabah a knowing look

Bryce: "Boys and their pissing contests."

Lehabah: "Your cousin is dreamy."

Bryce: "I thought Athalar was your one true love."

Lehabah: "Can't they both be?"

Bryce: "Considering how terrible they are at sharing, I don't think it'll end well for any of you."

Bryce: "I heard your lightning is unique among the angels - even the Archangels can't produce it."

He tucked in his wings

Hunt: "Yeah?"

A shrug

Bryce: "So why is Isaiah the Commander of the 33rd?"

Hunt: "Because I piss off too many people and don't give a shit that I do."

Bryce gave him a conspirator's smile

Bryce: "We have something in common after all, Athalar."

Darkest Hel, this woman.

Hunt: "I mught have been born before computers, Quinlan, but I do know how to use them."

Bryce: 'I'm just trying to spare you from further ruining your badass image as the Umbra Mortis. We can't have word getting out that you're a computer nerd."

Hunt: "That's annoying."

Bryce: "So is your face."

Ruhn: "Why don't you put on a little demonstration for Athalar, Bryce?"

She smirked

Bryce: " don't need to prove I can handle a big gun to run with the boys' club."

Hunt's skin tightened at the feral delight in her eyes as she said big gun. Other parts of him tightened, too.

Flynn: "Twenty gold marks says we outshoot you."

Bryce: "Only rich-ass pieces of shit have twenty gold marks to blow on bullshit contests."

Bryce said, amber eyes dancing with amusement as she winked at Hunt. His blood thrummed, his body tensing as surely as if she'd gripped his cock. But her gaze already drifted to the distant target.

She snapped the earmuffs over her arched ears.

Flynn rubbed his hands together

Flynn: "Here we fuckin' go."

Bryce popped on the glasses, adjusted her ponytail, and hefted Ruhn's rifle into her hands. She weighed it in her arms, and Hunt couldn't drag his eyes away from the way her fingers brushed over the chassis, stroking all the way down to the butt plate.

He swallowed hard, but she merely fitted the gun to her shoulder, each movement as comfortable as he'd expect from someone raised by a legendary sharpshooter.

Bryce: "Allow me to demonstrate why you all can kiss my fucking ass."

I see you Quinlan, he silently conveyed to her. And I like all of it.

Right back at you, her half smile seemed to say.

Declan: "You know what he does, right?"

Bryce: "Look really good in black?"

Declan growled

Declan: "That demon-hunting is a front. He does the Governor's dirty work. Hunt Athalar is bad news."

She batted her eyelashes

Bryce: "Good thing I like bad boys."

Hunt: "I have fun with you, Quinlan. Despite how terrible this case is, despite all of it, I haven't' had fun like this in a while."

In ever.

He could have sworn she blushed

Bryce: "Hang with me, Athalar, and you might get rid of that stick up your ass after all."

He didn't answer. There was just a click.

She whirled toward him to find his phone out. Snapping a photo of her.

Hunt: "I'd rather have a stick up my ass than look like a drowned rat."

Bryce: "The soap is right there. And yet you took down a box from the highest shelf?"

She could have sworn color stained his cheeks

Hunt: "I saw purple glitter."

She blinked at him

Bryce: "You thought it was a sex toy, didn't you?"

He said nothing.

Bryce: "You think I keep my vibrator in my linen closet?"

He crossed his arms

Hunt: "What I want to know is why you have a box of these things."

Bryce: "Because I love them. This is my Pegasus, Peaches and Dreams."

Hunt: "You're twenty-five years old."

Bryce: "And? They're sparkly and squishy."

She turned back to him, remembering that she still wore only her towel, and he was still shirtless. She grabbed a box of soap and shoved it toward him.

Bryce: "Here. Next time you want to check out my vibrators, just ask, Athalar."

She inclined her head toward her bedroom door and winked.

Bryce: "They're in the left nightstand."

Again, his cheeks reddened

Hunt: "I wasn't - you're a pain in the ass, you know that?"

She shut the linen closet door with her hip and sauntered back to her bedroom.

Bryce: "I'd rather be a pain in the ass, than a snooping pervert."

His snarl followed her all the way back into the bathroom.

Tharion: "Take a seat, Legs, and tell me all about it."

Bryce huffed a laugh

Bryce: "You're trouble."

Tharion: "What does your boyfriend think of you working with the famed Umbra Mortis?"

Hunt: "Real subtle, Tharion."

Yet Bryce's mouth bloomed into a full smile.

Tharion leaned back on his hands, displaying his muscled abdomen as he asked innocently,

Tharion: "What did I say?"

Bryce laughed, making no attempt to hide her blatant ogling of the mer's cut body.

Bryce: "I don't have a boyfriend. You want the job?"

Tharion smirked.

Tharion: "You like to swim?"

Hunt: "Tharion's just been promoted to her Captain of Intelligence. Don't let the charm and irreverence fool you."

Tharion: "Charm and irreverence happen to be my two favorite traits."

Bryce said with a wink for Tharion this time.

The mer's smile deepened

Tharion: "Careful, Bryce. I might decide I like you and bring you Beneath."

Hunt: "Just answer the question, asshole."

Tharion peered at Bryce

Tharion: 'If he talks to you like that, I hope you kick him in the balls."

Hunt: "She'd enjoy it."

Bryce: "Hunt has learned his lesson about pissing me off."

Tharion's smile was sly

Tharion: "That is a story I'd like to hear."

Hunt: "Of course you would."

Bryce: "Is this the part where you start yelling?"

Lightning cracked through the sky, and echoed in his veins as he leaned closer and purred,

Hunt: "Would you like me to yell, Bryce Quinlan?"

Her throat bobbed, her eyes glowing with golden fire.

Bryce: "Maybe?"

Hunt let out a low laugh. Didn't try to stop the heat that flooded him.

Hunt: "That can be arranged."

I think you'll find this of interest. Kisses, Tharion.

Hunt: "Kisses?"

Bryce: "They're for you, obviously."

Bryce: "I'm not going to waste my time snooping around town for answers about what kind of demon killed Danika. Going straight to the source will save me a headache."

Hunt: "Going right to the source will get you splattered on a wall. And if not, arrested for summoning a demon into a residential zone."

Shit. He should arrest her, shouldn't he?

Bryce: "No one likes a narc, Athalar."

Hunt: "I am a narc."

A dark red eyebrow arched.

Bryce: "Could've fooled me, Shadow of Death."

Aidas: "Make the Drop, Bryce Quinlan. And find me when you are done. The Oracle did not see. But I did."

Hunt: "First of all, fuck you for that surprise."

Hunt: "Want help?"

Bryce: "No. This is an apology meal. Go watch your game."

Hunt: "You don't need to apologize."

Bryce: 'I acted like an asshole. Let me cook something for you to make up for it."

Hunt: "Based on how much chili powder you just dumped in that pan, I'm not sure I want to accept this particular apology."

Bryce: "I'm sorry I dumped my baggage in your lap."

A corner of his mouth turned up

Hunt: "You can dump your baggage in my lap anytime, Quinlan."

She snorted, shaking her head.

Bryce: "You made it sound gross."

Hunt: "You said it first."

Bryce: "I don't need a male telling me when to eat."

Hunt: "How about a friend telling you that you had an understandably rough night, and you get mean as shit when you're hungry?"

Bryce: "You look how I feel. Every day."

Hunt: "At the risk of sounding like an alphahole cliche', I like seeing you in my shirt."

Bryce: "Total alphahole cliche'"

Hunt: "What are you thinking about?"

He didn't turn from the stove.

You. Like a fucking idiot, I'm thinking about you.

Bryce: "There's a sample sale at one of the designer stores this afternoon."

Hunt glanced over his shoulder. Fuck, his eyes were dark.

Hunt: "Is that so?"

Was that a purr in his voice?

She couldn't help the step she took back, bumping into the kitchen island.

Bryce: "Yes."

Hunt's eyes darkened further. He said nothing.

She couldn't breathe properly with that stare fixed on her. That stare that told her he scented everything going on in her body.

Her nipples pebbled under that stare.

Hunt went preternaturally still. His eyes dipped downward. Saw her breasts. The thighs she now clamped together - as if it'd stop the throbbing beginning to torture her between them.

His face went positively feral. A mountain car ready to pounce.

Hunt: "I didn't know clothing sales got you so hot and bothered, Quinlan."

She nearly whimpered. Forced herself to keep still.

Bryce: "It's the little things in life, Athalar."

Hunt: "Is that what you think about when you open up that left nightstand? Clothing sales?"

Bryce: "Yes. All those clothes, all over my body."

She had no idea what the fuck was coming out of her mouth.

Hunt: "Maybe you should buy some new underwear."

Nodding to her bare legs

Hunt: 'Seems like you're out."

Hunt: "I'm Hunt Athalar. Or Athie, as she and Lehabah call me."

Randall: "You were going to mention this when, exactly?"

Bryce: "He's not as cool as you think, Dad."

Hunt snorted.

Hunt: "Thanks."

Ember: "Why is Hunt Athalar your roommate?"

Bryce: "He was booted from the 33rd for his questionable fashion sense. I told him his boring black clothes don't bother me, and let him stay here."

Hunt: "Have you tried to get her to a medwitch for that leg?"

Ember: "What's wrong with her leg?"

Bryce: "Nothing. A busybody angel, that's what."

Hunt: "It's the wound she got two years ago. It still hurts her. And she still insists on running."

Ember: "Why would you do that, Bryce?"

Bryce: "It's none of anyone's business."

Randall: "Bryce. If it bothers you, you should see a medwitch."

Bryce: "It doesn't bother me."

Hunt: "Then why have you been rubbing your leg under the counter?"

Bryce: "Because I was trying to convince it not to kick you in the face, asshole."

Hunt: "You're my friend. If you would like me to be."

Bryce: "Didn't you know, Athalar? We've been friends from the moment you thought Jelly Jubilee was a dildo."

He let himself settle into the feeling.

And wasn't that the most dangerous thing he'd ever done.

Hunt: "No issue with the Umbra Mortis being your emotional twin?"

Bryce: "That's what they call you, but that's not who you are."

Hunt: "And who am I?"

Bryce: "A pain in my ass."

Hunt: "When I got to the alley that night, you were bleeding everywhere. Yet you tried to protect him first. You wouldn't let us get near until we showed you our badges and proved we were from the legion."

Hunt's fingers stroked over her brow

Hunt: "I thought to myself, There's someone I want guarding my back. There's a friend I'd like to have. I think I gave you such a hard time when we met up again because ... because some part of me knew that, and was afraid of what it'd mean."

She couldn't stop the tears sliding down her face.

His eyes didn't waver from hers.

Hunt: "I was there in the interrogation room, too."

His fingers drifted through her hair, gentle and calming.

Hunt: "I was there for all of it."

The pain struck deep, and she couldn't help the scream that worked its way out of her.

Hunt leaned forward, putting his cool brow against hers.

Hunt: "I've known who you were this whole time. I never forgot you."

Bryce: "What sort of an afterward for you and me do you have in mind, Athalar?"

Hunt: "The good kind."

Bryce: "You kissed me - at the medwitch's office."

Hunt: "What about it?"

Bryce: "Did you mean it?"

Hunt: "Yes. Did you want me to mean it?"

Bryce: "You know the answer to that, Athalar."

Hunt: "Do you want me to do it again?"

Bryce: "I want to do it. If that's all right with you."

Hunt: "Do your worst, Quinlan."

Bryce: 'This wasn't supposed to happen - between us."

Hunt: "I know. But thank fucking Urd it did."

Hunt: "Do you taste as good as you feel, Bryce?"

Bryce: "Please find out immediately."

Hunt: "I am going to fuck you until you can't remember your gods-damned name."

Gods, yes.

Bryce: 'Likewise."

Fury: "I'm heading out a few days early to the Summit. So I just thought you should know something before I go."

Bryce: "You love me and you'll write often?"

Fury: "Gods, you're the worst. Ever since I met you in that dumb-ass class, you've been the worst."

Bryce: "Yeah, but you find it delightful."

Flynn muttered something.

Bryce: "What?"

Flynn crossed his arms

Flynn: 'I said I've know that you're a princess for all of an hour and you're already a pain in my ass."

Bryce: "You are a free person - you do not have to do this. You are free, Lehabah."

Lehabah: "Then let the world know that my first act of freedom was to help my friends."

The Prime: "One wolf remains in the Old Square."

Sabine: "That's Danika's sword you're sensing, Father -"

His hand curled on his chest

The Prime: "A wolf."

He tapped his heart.

The Prime: "A true wolf."

Bryce: "Hunt, I need you to call my mom."

Hunt: "Don't start making those kinds of goodbyes -"

Bryce: "I need you to call my mom. I need you to tell her that I love her, and that everything I am is because of her. Her strength and her courage nd her love. And I'm sorry for all the bullshit I put her through."

Hunt: "Stop -"

Bryce: "Tell me dad ... Tell Randall that I'm so proud I got to call him my father. That he was the only one that ever mattered."

Hunt could have sworn something like shame flitted across the Autumn King's face.

Hunt: "Bryce, you need to move to safer ground now."

Bryce: "Tell Fury I'm sorry I lied. That I would have told her thetruth eventually. Tell Juniper ..."

Bryce's voice broke

Bryce: "Tell her thank you - for that night on the roof."

She swallowed a sob

Bryce: "Tell her that I know now why she stopped me from jumping. It was so I could get here - to help today."

Hunt's heard cracked entirely. He hadn't known, hadn't guessed that things had ever been that bad for her -

From the pure devastation on Ruhn's face, her brother hadn't known, either.

Bryce: "Tell Ruhn I forgive him."

Tears streamed down the prince's face.

Bryce: "I forgave him a long time ago. I just didn't know how to tell him. Tell him I'm sorry I hid the truth, and that I only did it because I love him and didn't want to take anything away from him. He'll always be the better one of us."

The agony on Ruhn's face turned to confusion.

Hunt: "Bryce, please -"

Bryce: "Hunt. I was waiting for you."

Hunt: "Bryce, sweetheart, just get back to your apartment and give me an hour and -"

Bryce: "No."

She put her hand on her chest. Over her heart.

Bryce: "I was waiting for you - in here."

Hunt couldn't stop his own tears then.

Hunt: "I was waiting for you, too."

Ruhn: "Those books claimed there were multiple Starborn in the First Wars. I told her, and she ... She already knew."

Hunt: "She lied because she loves you. So you could keep your title."

Ember: "It is a gift of starlight. Light, and nothing more. It never meant anything to us, but to your people ... When Bryce was thirteen, she agreed to visit you. To meet you - to see if you could be trusted to know what she possessed and not be threatened by it. But when she met your son. And she told me that when she saw his pride in his Chosen One status, she realized she couldn't take it away from him. Not when she also saw that was the only value you placed in him. Even if it meant she would be denied everything she was due, even if revealing herself would have meant she could lord it over you, she wouldn't do that to Ruhn. Because she loved him that much more than she hated you.""

Fury: "Bryce was a ghost for a long while, Hunt. She pretended she wasn't, bet she was. You brought her back to life."

Danika: "Light it up. Light it up, Bruce."

Bryce: "I'm scared."

Danika: "That's the point of it, Bryce. Of life. To live, to love, knowing that it might all vanish tomorrow. It makes everything that much more precious."

Hunt: "I heard what you said."

Pump, pump, pump went his powerful arms

Hunt: "What you waited to admit until I was almost dead, you fucking coward."

His lightning surged into her, sending her body arcing off the ground as he tried to jumpstart her heart. He snarled in her ear

Hunt: "Now come say it to my face."

It was the answer to the ancient Prime's words. To the Autumn King's question of how, against every statistic blaring on Declan's computer, they were even witnessing Hunt Athalar fight like Hel to keep Bryce Quinlan's heart beating.

Through love, all is possible.

She laid her palm over his thundering heart.

Bryce: "Did you just call me a fucking coward."

Hunt tipped his head to the stars and laughed.

Hunt: "So what if I did?"

She angled her face closer to his.

Bryce: "Too bad all that healing firstlight didn't turn you into a decent person."

Hunt: "Where would the fun be in that, Quinlan?"

Bryce: "We save the city, and you're already telling me I need to get back to work?"

Bryce: "I throw one smoldering look at you and you're already - what was it you said to me a few weeks ago? Hot and bothered?"

Hunt: "I've been hot and bothered for you a long time now."

Bryce: "Yeah, Hunt's here. No, I didn't, Mom. And no, he didn't, either."

A drawer slammed.

Bryce: "That is none of your business, and please never ask me anything like that again."

Bryce groaned

Bryce: "You're a pervert, Mom. You know that? Well, if you're so fucking invested in it, why did you call me? Didn't you think I might be busy?"

Hunt: "Want to come play scary asshole with me?"

Bryce: "I have just the outfit."

Bryce: "Thank you for coming for me."

Ruhn: "You're my sister. Of course I'd come to save your ass."

Ruhn: "I don't care if I'm called Prince or Starborn or the Chosen One or any of that."

He grabbed her hand.

Ruhn: "The only thing I want to be called right now is your brother. If you'll have me."

She winked , even as her heart tightened unbearably.

Bryce: "I'll think about it."

Ruhn: "And it's not mind-reading. Just ... mind-talking. Telepathy."

Bryce: "Does dear old Dad know?"

Ruhn: "No."

Ruhn: And I'd like to keep it that way.

She started

Bryce: Creepy. Kindly stay the fuck out of my head, brother.

Ruhn: Gladly.

Bryce unlocked her phone. And read Danika's final, happy messages one last time.

The light built on the river, gilding it's surface.

Bryce's eyes stung as she smiled softly, then read through Connor's last words to her.

Message me when you're home safe.

Bryce began typing. The answer it had taken her two years, nearly to the day, to write.

I'm home.

Jesiba: "You know you're not a true cat, don't you? You don't need to lick yourself."

Aidas: "Who says I don't enjoy licking myself?"

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