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Crescent City: House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J Maas

Updated: Jan 26, 2023


House of Sky and Breath

by Sarah J Maas

Published by Bloomsbury

Book 2 in the Crescent City Series


Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal―


they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds.


The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.


In this sexy, action-packed sequel to the #1 bestseller House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Maas weaves a captivating story of a world about to explode―and the people who will do anything to save it.


Genre:

 

House of Sky and Breath is Sarah J Maas's second book in her hit new series, Crescent City. It centers around Bryce Quinlan, who has just completed the drop, is now a known starborn fae, and one of the most powerful beings in the city. Along with Bryce, we get : Hunt Athalar, now free from slavery, has access to his full powers, and Bryce's partner, Ruhn Danaan, Bryce's half-brother, Ithan Holstrum, Connor's little brother, and Tharion, a mer who helped Bryce out in the House of Earth in Blood. After the climatic events of House of Earth and Blood, everyone feels like they need a breath of air - especially Bryce and Hunt. Despite their feelings for one another, they decide to take things slow, and get to know one another in less dire circumstances. Ruhn and Bryce are working on their friendship and familial bonds. Life is good, if uneasy. But while it would be easy to shut her eyes to the world, and just focus on the life she has been given the chance to live, Bryce can't. The rebellion is pressing in on all sides - the city, their lives. And everyone must make a choice: continue living with the injustice and inequality from the Asteri, or step up, and fight for not just themselves - but everyone.


^An accurate representation of me while reading this book.^


I am going to do this first part *spoiler free* before I start REALLY talking about this book ... because holy shit. You are probably wondering why its taken so long for me to post about this book, and other than life getting in the way, I wanted time to a) give people a chance to read the book, because after the first part of this review, I am not holding back, or hiding the spoilers, and b) I needed to process. Because this book in big in a lot of ways, and it deserves some time to get all my thoughts in order.


It's no secret that Sarah J Maas is an amazing writer. She can write fantasy and romance in a way that is fun and entertaining, but no less intriguing and full of twists and turns a reader wants from their fantasy. The romance element isn't the main focus in Crescent City. It is definitely a part of it, but Sarah interweaves it with the story, so it feels like fantasy with a side of romance, instead of romance with a side of fantasy. Much like the first book, we have Bryce on a mission to find out more truth's that Danika hid, and with her new support system, the dangerous slope she finds herself on is easier to manage. No longer do we have a lonely, heartbroken Bryce, who keeps her pain to herself, and deals with everything on her own. We get a healing, happier Bryce. Still moments of sadness when she thinks of her friends, but she has people to talk to. She delegates. It's a whole new Bryce - but it's not. She still feels the same, but there is a lightness to her character that truly makes me happy. I love her relationship with Hunt, which is less angsty and full of tension, but more fun, playful, definitely still sexy. They can talk, and have serious conversations, and have disagreements, but at the end of the day, they are happy with one another. I loved that. One of my favorite relationships in this book was Ruhn and Bryce, and seeing them become best friends again. Ruhn's storyline was superb, and I can't wait to continue this journey with him and a certain someone. Ithan and Tharion's POV's were new in this book (well, Ithan had a small paragraph from his POV in House of Earth and Blood, but nothing like this). I wasn't sure if I wanted to add to the Bryce/Hunt/Ruhn POV's, but I really enjoyed Ithan's. Seeing the events of House of Earth and Blood from his side, and the consequences of what he did in that book was actually pretty interesting, and while I see where his story is heading, I am still excited to read it. The only storyline I didn't really like was Tharion's. Some of his choices were annoying, and some of the things he was willing to do angered me. And while he was in a sticky situation, I am sure it could have been handled better. He is definitely an act first, think later sort of guy, and it isn't serving him well.


Spoilers Below. You have been warned!

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HOLY SHIT THAT ENDING!

Seriously, I squealed. OUT LOUD. We knew that ToG, ACOTAR, and CC were all a part of the same universe, but SJM fans have debated for years whether or not there would be a crossover. And we are getting one! It also explains why we are getting the next Crescent City book before the next ACOTAR book. It's been over a month since I finished this book, and I still have a stupid grin on my face thinking about it. Okay. There is a lot of stuff to talk about, so let's get started!


Bryce - Fuck I love Bryce. I loved "emo Bryce" in the first book, and I loved happy and healing Bryce is this one. And just because her and Hunt are a thing, doesn't mean she still doesn't give him shit ... because honestly, I love that she riles him up. One of the things I loved most about Bryce in this book, was how she opened herself to new and old friends. She stopped pushing everyone way. She doesn't forget about Danika and the others. She loves them still. But she is moving on. Her relationship with Hunt is deeper than sex (although, the sex is great, and just as hot as you would expect from them. Sarah made sure we suffered with "lady blueballs" for a good percentage of this book though.), and I enjoyed how their powers interconnect. They are puzzle pieces that complete the whole.

Her bond with Ruhn is literally one of t he most heartwarming storylines in this book, and I love the different brother/sister types friendships she has with Flynn and Dec.

The best thing about Bryce though, is her morals. Sure, The Asteri played her from the start, because they knew they could bait her. But she couldn't forget about a human boy who needed a home and family, and to feel safe. She couldn't NOT keep those dangerous suits out of both sides of the war. She needed the truth. And just like the other epic females in this universe, she was able to put her feelings aside and leave her mate behind to get help. And let's take a moment to appreciate that. Sarah is one of the few authors that does this. Much like Aelin in Throne of Glass gave herself up to Maeve, and Feyre from ACOTAR pretended to have been bamboozled by Rhysand to infiltrate the Spring Court, Bryce took it one step further, and travelled to a different world. Not the one she wanted, but obviously one she needed to go to. And imagine how hard that was ... with no guarantee that she can travel back (as she needs someone to power her up to travel) and save Hunt and the others. My fucking heart.


Hunt - I know some people don't like Hunt, because of what he did in the first book, but I have always loved Hunt. I have always seen him as a perfect match for Bryce. If you were enslaved, wouldn't you do anything to free yourself? Your friends? I would. So I get what he did. I continued to like him in this book. Bryce and him still have delicious chemistry, and Sarah is able to write them well.

I enjoyed seeing more of Hunt having his full power, and I LOVED that Sarah wrote him to be reluctant to help Bryce pursue the truth. It adds a healthy dose of realism to his character. He alone knows the consequences of rebelling. He doesn't want that for himself again, but mostly, he doesn't want to see Bryce, his mate, be enslaved. He doesn't want his friends to either. But he does it anyway, not only because Bryce was going to get involved with or without him, but because he knows its the right thing to do. So when Rigelus, - the little shit I hope gets fried to fucking ash (who knew I was so brutal?) - puts the halo on Hunt again? I was SOBBING. There is a theory out there that Rigelus is taking Hunt's memories while putting the halo on him. Which is even more heartbreaking, because he will forget Bryce, and become a weapon against those he cares for. We will see what happens. I know it will end up happy for him and Bryce, but god. This is brutal.


Bryce and Hunt - I know there were a lot of people who were hoping that SJM would pull her usual plot device, of introducing a love interest before "Tamlin-ing" them, and replacing them with a new one. I had a feeling Sarah wasn't doing that this time around, and I'm personally glad she didn't, because I love these two together. While I couldn't wait for them to FINALLY have sex, I did enjoy that they decided to go slow, and get to know one another. It made their already deep bond feel stronger. The fact that we get a confirmation on what I was already thinking - that they are mates - made me happy. Because they both deserve that. And I loved that Sarah made us wait WELL into the book for the smut. It made their coming together that much more ... more. Aside from the romance here, their power combining is epic.


Ruhn - Ruhn was easily one of my favorite characters, and story to read in this book. I love how close Bryce and Ruhn have gotten again, and how genuinely he loves his sister, and wants to help his people. I am very excited to learn more about his ancestry, especially now that we know he looks exactly like Rhysand. Aside from this, I am stoked about this relationship between Ruhn and Lidia. His freaking MATE! I figured out who Agent Day was before the big reveal. I suspected it was someone we already knew of, and was someone working behind enemy lines. But when Baxian made a passing comment about how the Hind was not really with Pollux, and then we got introduced to Day, I just knew. And I get why Ruhn is upset, but also he should be insanely impressed by her. I know I am, and I can't wait to read more about her, and them together.


The Hind/Agent Day/Lidia - I totally figured out that Agent Day was the Hind before the reveal. Baxian vaguely commented that she wasn't really with Pollux, which I took for face value. Agent Day's tone when she first started communicating with Ruhn, I knew she had to be someone we have heard of before, and obviously perceived as an enemy. It was the moment she was "pulled away" out of the mental bond with Ruhn by another man that confirmed it for me. That, along with Baxian's comment. While she has obviously done some horrific things to cover her true intentions, and that makes her in no way innocent, I think she has a huge, probably heartbreaking story to tell. And I get why Ruhn feels the way he does, but he is a new player in this war. She has been doing this a long time, and her efforts to the cause are invaluable. Some of the things she says makes it clear that she plans on going down with the Asteri, because there is no way the rebels will allow her to live. Who will believe her? And if Ruhn can't get over the things she has done, her own mate, who else would? Can't wait to see where her story is going!


Ithan - Was anyone else surprised by Ithan's past feelings for Bryce? I usually pick up on this kinda thing early on, but I didn't think Ithan had feelings for Bryce until we get into his POV. My best friend, however, was not surprised. THAT being said ... Ithan believed at one point that Bryce and him were mates. He felt a pull to her. The Prime called her a true wolf. I wonder if there is in fact, a bond. My theory is Ithan and Bryce are carranam. This bond has only been mentioned in the Throne of Glass books, but as we KNOW that this is all the same universe, and that the shifters are also fae, it could explain that pull to each other, and their close friendship. When they were fighting the demons in House of Earth and Blood, they appeared to fight in sync with each other. Either way, I enjoyed his storyline. I think that the mystic wolf will be his mate, and that because of her heritage, she will end up as the Prime of the wolves. Whatever happens, I can't wait to read more Ithan! Especially the bromance developing between Ruhn, Flynn, Dec and him.


Tharion - NOOOOOOOO Sarah! I really liked his character! Listen, I am empathetic to his situation. Its a truly shitty situation he got himself into. But when he was planning on bringing the dragon under the water as an apology to the River Queen, I lost a lot of respect for him. Do I like the situation he is in now? Nope. And I hope he gets himself out of it, and gets his life on track. Because I want to like Tharion again.


Cormac - In the beginning, I didn't like his character, but when it was revealed that he is actually a rebel, and he was only using the arranged marriage as a way to stay in CC while he searched for Emile, I opened up to him. The way he loved Sofie, and his part in this story made me love him, and I'm sad that he is gone. :( When Ruhn shakes his hand, offering friendship instead of animosity, and he smiles sadly - oh my heart. He knew he wasn't coming back from this mission, and was sad that he never got a true chance to be Ruhn's friend. Survivor of Maas destruction indeed.


Danika - Even though Danika is long gone, she still is a major part of this story, and she still has a story to be told. While it was said in the last book that Danika was working on a personal project at Redner, it was left to us to theorize what that personal project was. I did assume it was related to the Asteri, and I was right about that. But I didn't guess that the Asteri essentially fed Micah the information, knowing it would lead to her murder. And while I was expecting to find out about this project Danika was hiding, I NEVER expected that she was hiding deeply personal things, like her father being Mordoc, and her mate being Baxian. Believe me, I get why she hid that information, but I also get Bryce's anger over her secrets. I honestly can't imagine that there is anymore secrets to come from Danika, but Sarah J Maas will probably make me eat my words. Because I am pretty sure it was mentioned that there were other files on that flash drive she hid in her jacket that Bryce never looked at. What are in those files?!?!


Baxian - I figured he was against the Asteri, but only because Hunt believed he was trying to fuck him over. So I wasn't surprised about him helping them out when they were at the base. He obviously knows the truth about Lidia, with his comment about her faking her relationship with Pollux. Would have never guessed he was mated with Danika ... but it honestly makes their story even more heartbreaking. They loved one another, and could never be with each other for more than a small amount of time here or there. They had no time together. She was brutally murdered, and he couldn't grieve. I'm sure now there is a part of him that feels free, now that others know the truth. But its heartbreaking. I think he will play a role in the future books, but I have a feeling he won't live to see the end of the war.


Fury and Juniper - THEY ARE TOGETHER AND I LOVE IT! Anyone have any theories on what species Fury is? Also, crossing fingers June and Bryce make up. Yeah, Bryce shouldn't have done what she did, but it came from a good place.


Flynn - I suspect that he may have found his match with the dragon ... we will see. I love the fire between them. Flynn having three fire sprites as his personal cheerleaders is absolutely amazing, and I need more of it going forward.


Hypaxia - It's so funny that I assumed that Ruhn and Hypaxia would become a thing in this book. I should have known that would not be the case ... but I'm not mad about it. I think Ruhn and Lidia are a way better match, to be honest, and I love that Hypaxia has a secret relationship with Celestina. I didn't pick up on any animosity over her inheriting her mothers crown in the first book, so I was surprised that it became a plot point in this book, but it makes sense if she has necromancer magic. I believe she has a big part to play in the future, specifically in regards to the dead, and saving them from becoming secondlight. As for her relationship with Celestina, I don't know what will happen there. She will either forgive her for ratting out her friends to the Asteri, or not. If not, I would like to see Hypaxia and Tharion become an item. They seem to have a great friendship at the very least.


Sophie and Emile - heartbreaking story that forces the reader to move themselves out of Bryce and Hunt's story, and what's going on in Crescent City, and forces you across the sea, and to the war. Sophie's story is tragic, because she did everything she could to save her brother, even giving her life in the end. Cormac obviously deeply loved her, and when he is in the morgue looking down at her body, its just sad. There is a good thing that came from the tragedy though. Sophie, in the end, got what she wanted. She saved Emile from the slave camp. She got him far enough for him to escape the human rebellions, and Bryce found him. Bryce saved him and gave him a new identity and a home with her parents, who were never able to conceive with one another. And one can hope that Cormac and Sophie are together again ... and hopefully are not forced to become secondlight right away as punishment for their rebellion.


Celestina - Not much I can say. I think she actually has a good heart. Rigelus did say that she was passing on information to them to protect who she loves.


Asteri - After we find out about firstlight and secondlight, I guessed that it was going to the Asteri, but after that, I had NO idea what we were getting into. Going into this book, my theory was the Asteri were regular Vanir, and pretending to be powerful. I was not expecting Bryce's discovery AT ALL. The pipes leading to the thrones I wasn't overly surprised by, but her next discovery was mind blowing. The whole scene where she is going through the slides and not only discovering this mass universe, but discovering that the Asteri are literally harvesting planets, and destroying them when they figure out the Asteri, or when the planet is no longer, or never was useful for them - woah. Mind blown. It totally reminded me of the videogame Mass Effect in a way (and if you have never played it, I suggest you do. Great game, great story ... until ME3, that is, but not the right post for that rant).


Mates - I know it is said in ACOTAR that the mating bond is rare. But I have a theory on this. I think in the beginning, mates were more common. Everyone is destined to have a mate. But with the Asteri destroying worlds, and the horn opening up portals to other dimensions and planets, and fae crossing over, it's become rare because the population has been culled by the Asteri - or mates are split up before they are even born because of the Crossover. So I am not getting my panties in a wad over the whole mating bond being over done, because I think there is more to the story.


Human rebels - I mean, are we surprised that they are just as bad as the Asteri? I mean, they aren't feeding on dead souls or anything, but there is a faction that want Vanir dead, including the ones who are on their side. So many books shows a "right" side and a "wrong" side, and I love that Sarah makes it clear that war is never that simple.


Mystics - I just knew that we were going to learn what the Mystics were in this book. They are mentioned in one line in the last book. And all Hunt said was that they were into fucked up shit. I was thinking sacrificial magic or something along those lines. Never could have predicted what the Mystics are, and how heartbreaking that it. But Hunt is right and wrong. The Mystics themselves are not fucked up, but the system and how they are controlled is. I assume that Mystics are like Elaine from ACOTAR, and are Seers.


CROSSOVER - I'm so stoked. Now, I don't think we will get a true crossover, in which Bryce will bring the ACOTAR crew to Midguard and everyone interacting. I think this is a stop for Bryce, and the reason she ended up with them was because of the Starsword. You can take the prophecy literally, and assume she needs the truth teller dagger to reunite the people, but I honestly think it means just her, going to Prythian, learning about her ancestry and her power (and I feel like Amren has a big part in this story ... perhaps she is one of the failed first "prototypes" of the malakim?) and her bringing that knowledge back home with her. Maybe in an epilogue or in an ACOTAR book we will see Bryce in Prythian again, and with some of her friends? We'll see. Would it be super cool if she could end up in the Throne of Glass world too? Hell yes it would. I need to see them again, and there are still questions that need to be answered from that series ...




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Ember: “Take a picture,”

Ember Quinlan called now to the shifters from where she stood next to a marble torso of Ogenas rising from the waves, the ocean goddess’s full breasts peaked and arms upraised.

Ember: “Only ten gold marks. Fifteen, if you want to be in it.”

Bryce: “For fuck’s sake, Mom,” Bryce: “They make such a beautiful couple.”

And because her mom was … well, her mom, Ember sized up Bryce and Hunt and said with no shame whatsoever,

Bryce: “You two would as well, if you got your shit together.”

Bryce slouched down in her seat, lifting her playbill to block her red-hot face. Why weren’t the lights dimming yet? But Hunt took it in stride and said,

Hunt: “All good things come to those who wait, Ember.” Four months, three days, and … She peeked at the delicate watch on her wrist. Four hours. And at the stroke of midnight on Winter Solstice, she would be stroking— '

Hunt: “Burning fucking Solas, Quinlan,”

Hunt grunted, again shifting in his seat.

Bryce: “Sorry,” Flynn: “Since when do you let Marc get away with calling you Princess?”

Bryce: “Since I like him better than you,” Flynn began reracking the beer pong cups, and called to her,

Flynn: “How are Mommy and Daddy?”

Bryce: “Good. They fed me a bottle of milk and read me a bedtime story before I left.” Fury: “How’s the whole no-sex thing going for you, Bryce?”

Fury asked wryly, leaning forward to peer at her face. Bryce slumped against the cushions.

Bryce: “Asshole.”

June’s laugh fizzled through her, and her friend patted her thigh.

June: “Remind me why you two aren’t hooking up?”

Bryce peered over the back of the couch to make sure Hunt still stood at the bar before she said,

Bryce: “Because I am a fucking idiot, and you two jerks know that.” Bryce: "Just go in there with an open mind.”

Hunt: “You mean, don’t start a fight.”

His mouth twitched to the side. Fury snickered. Bryce put a hand on her hip.

Bryce: “I mean, don’t go in there playing Scary Asshole. Maybe try for an Approachable Asshole vibe.” Hunt didn’t particularly like the male’s appreciative tone. But he kept his power reined in. Even a zap of lightning against Cormac could be seen as a declaration of war. Fae were highly sensitive babies. Their tantrums could last centuries. Fury: “They’re adults. You can trust them to make rational choices.”

Bryce: “Have you met my mom? Does rational ever spring to mind when you think about her? She makes sculptures of babies in beds of lettuce, for fuck’s sake.” Ithan grunted.

Ithan: “It’s … it’s not as bad as it looks.”

Bryce: “Your mouth literally started bleeding again saying that,” Bryce: “Holy shit, Ithan.”

He yanked the shirt back over the extensive bruising.

Ithan: “It’s fine.”

Hunt: “Those look like broken ribs,”

Bryce: “Definitely broken ribs, Athalar. And a broken arm, from the way he’s cradling it.”

Hunt: “Skull fracture’s healed,”

Hunt observed with equal distance, as if they were on one of his favorite Vanir crime procedurals. Ithan’s eyes flashed again.

Bryce: “I’m sensing hostility and a good dose of male pride,”

Hunt: “Throw in some stubbornness and I’d say we’ve got ourselves a classic case of stupidity,” Ithan: “Did you love him?”

Bryce: “You know I did,”

Ithan: “We waste so much time. Maybe it’s our curse as immortals. To see time as a luxury, a never-ending ocean.” Ithan: “Connor was in love with her for those five years, you know.”

The wolf headed over to the couch and plopped onto the cushions.

Ithan: “Five years, and by the end of it, he’d only managed to get her to agree to go on a date with him.”

Hunt kept his face unreadable as Syrinx devoured his second—potentially third—breakfast.

Hunt: “So?”

Ithan turned on the morning news before propping his feet on the coffee table and interlacing his hands behind his head.

Ithan: “You’re at month five, bro. Good luck to you.” Jesiba tsked.

Jesiba: “Males will always try to control the females who scare them. Bryce lifted her chin and said to Cormac Donnall, lurking in the doorway,

Bryce: “If you’re looking for How Not to Be an Asshole, it’s shelved between Bye, Loser and Get the Fuck Out.” Bryce: “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. Bryce: “That’s the best you can come up with? I thought the Hammer was supposed to be some kind of sadistic badass.”

Pollux: “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.

Bryce: “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,

Bryce: “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.

Bryce: “I thought so.”

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

Hunt: “Fancy, Quinlan.”

Bryce: “I aim to impress.” Bryce snickered, but Ithan asked from the couch,

Ithan: “Who are you?”

Tharion flashed him a smile.

Tharion: “None of your business.”

But Ithan sniffed.

Ithan: “Mer. Oh—yeah, I know you. Captain Whatever.”

Tharion: “Ketos,”

Tharion muttered. Hunt tipped his head to Ithan.

Hunt: “You’ve landed a grave blow to Captain Whatever’s ego, Holstrom.”

Tharion: “The gravest blow comes from my dearest friends failing to extol my many qualities when I’m challenged,”

Tharion said, pouting.

Hunt: “Dearest friends?”

Hunt asked, raising a brow.

Tharion: “Prettiest friends,”

Tharion said, blowing a kiss to Bryce.

Mind to mind: Bryce: You really want to be roomies with a wolf?

Ruhn: Better than an angel.

Bryce: Depends on what you’re doing with that angel.

Ruhn: Gross, Bryce. Bryce tuned back into the conversation as Declan asked with a wicked smile that told her he was about to start shit,

Declan: “So, who’s sleeping where in this apartment tonight?”

Bryce couldn’t help glancing again at Hunt, who kept his face wholly neutral as he said,

Hunt: “I’m bunking with Bryce.”

Bryce’s mouth popped open, but Ithan said,

Ithan: “Good. She snores.”

Bryce: “Assholes. You can both go sleep on the roof.”

Ithan: “Not enough distance from your snoring,”

Ithan said, smirking. Bryce scowled, leaning down to pet Syrinx’s velvety ears. Hunt only winked.

Hunt: “I’ll get earplugs.” Bryce: “What’s up? You guys get home okay?”

The wall of windows revealed a sunny day, witches and angels zooming by. And, Bryce realized in the morning light, the fact that she was still wearing her worn T-shirt that said Nidaros Community Center Camp Summer 15023 and … little else. Oops. No wonder Ithan was smirking. Her lilac lace demi-thong left little to the imagination. Bryce stifled the urge to tug her shirt’s hem over her half-bare ass. Hunt’s eyes darkened, but he merely leaned against the counter and silently offered her a cup of coffee.

Ember: “Oh yes. We got home, had plenty of time to do some grocery shopping and run a few errands.”

Bryce put the phone on speaker and slid it onto the counter, backing away a few feet. Like it was a grenade of compressed firstlight about to explode.

Bryce: “Great,”

Bryce said, and she could have sworn Hunt was trying not to laugh.

Ember: “We also had plenty of time to answer all the phone calls that we began to get, asking when the wedding is.”

Hunt took a long sip of his coffee. Ithan just watched with a befuddled expression. Right. She hadn’t told him. Bryce gritted her teeth in an attempt at a smile.

Bryce: “You and Randall are renewing your vows?”

Her mom fell silent. A wave building, cresting, about to break.

Ember: “Is this engagement some scheme to prompt Hunt to finally confess his love for you?”

Hunt choked on his coffee. Oh gods. Bryce was half-tempted to pour the boiling coffee over her head and melt into nothing.

Bryce: “For fuck’s sake,” Hunt: “When were you going to tell me about Cormac dropping by the archives? What the fuck did he say?”

Bryce: “That you and I are losers and he thinks I’m an immature brat.”

Text: Tharion: I’m at your apartment and ready to go through your underwear drawer.

Bryce: You’re early. I’ll be there in ten. Don’t leave drool stains on the lace ones. Or worse.

Tharion: No promise

Bryce: Just spare the pink bra, please. "Aidas": “The war approaches its crescendo. And your power isn’t ready.”

Bryce flicked the length of her ponytail over a shoulder.

Bryce: “How fucking cliché. Whatever my other powers are, I want nothing to do with them. Not if they somehow link me to you—the Asteri will consider that a serious threat. Rightly so.”

"Aidas": “People died so you could have this power. People have been dying in this battle for fifteen thousand years so we could reach this point. Don’t play the reluctant hero now. That is the cliché.” Bryce: “We do need the cover to be seen together. Otherwise, anyone who knows what a piece of shit you are would wonder why the Hel I would stoop to hang with you. It’d be suspicious.” Cormac: “If I can trust cowards who like painting their nails while the rest of the world suffers, then you can trust me.”

Bryce: “Going in hard with the charm, Cormac.”

Cormac: “Swear a blood oath. And I’ll leave.”

Bryce: “No. I have a manicure in ten minutes.” Cormac: “Beyond Sofie, beyond Emile … This world could be so much more. This world could be free. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want that.”

Hunt: “Hard to enjoy being free if you’re dead.”

Cormac opened the door, stepping into the swirling shadows.

Cormac: “I can think of no better reason to yield my life.” Hunt: “Before we went off on this stupid tangent, I was trying to warn you that it’s been a while, so I might …”

Bryce: “Be fast?”

He nipped at her wrist.

Hunt: “Be loud, asshole.” Bryce: “Your chest is as big as mine,”

Hunt: “That’s the least sexy thing anyone has ever said to me,”

Hunt had managed to prop himself up on his elbows when Ithan yelled from the other side of the apartment,

Ithan: “Please: have sex a little louder! I didn’t hear everything that time!”

Bryce burst out laughing, but Hunt could only stare at the little droplet that ran down her chin, gleaming in the dim light of her star. She noted the direction of his attention and wiped off her chin, rubbing her fingers together, then licking them clean. Hunt growled, low and deep.

Hunt: “I’m going to fuck you senseless.”

Her nipples were hard as pebbles, and she squirmed against him. Nothing but those little lace panties separated her sweetness from his bare thighs. But then Holstrom shouted,

Ithan: “That sounds medically dangerous!” Apollion: “The Northern Rift is groaning once more. I can smell war on the wind. I do not plan to lose this time.”

Hunt: “Well, I don’t plan to have a demon prince for my ruler, so find a new five-year goal.” Ithan: “Really? You’d trap me?”

Tharion: "For your own safety, yeah. You know what Bryce would do to me if you wound up dead? I’d never get to fondle her underwear again.”

Ithan gaped at him. Then burst out laughing. It was a rich sound, a little hoarse—like he hadn’t done it in a while.

Ithan: “I’m surprised Athalar lets you live.”

Tharion: “You know what Bryce would do to Hunt if I wound up dead?”

Tharion grinned.

Tharion: “My sweet Legs has my back.”

Ithan: “Why do you call her that?”

Ithan asked cautiously. Tharion shrugged again.

Tharion: “You really want me to answer that?”

Ithan: “No.” It took Athalar all of thirty seconds to decide. He ducked into his room, saying he was going to change for the gym. When Ruhn was alone with Dec and Ithan, his beer half-finished, Ithan said,

Ithan: “Connor would have picked the game.”

Ruhn raised an eyebrow.

Ruhn: “I didn’t realize it was a competition between them.”

Between a dead male and a living one. Ithan just typed away, eyes darting over the screen. And for some reason, Ruhn dared ask,

Ruhn: “What would you have picked?”

Ithan didn’t hesitate.

Ithan: “Bryce.” Bryce: “You were a kid, like, a thousand years ago. Forgive me if my childhood is a little more relevant.”

Hunt: “Two hundred years ago,”

Bryce: “Still old as fuck.” Hunt: “I didn’t realize you’d be so … jumpy. Or bright.”

Bryce: “I thought you’d praise me for my quick reflexes.”

Hunt: “Good jump. You almost blinded me. Congrats.” Bryce: “Boyfriend sounds weird for you. It’s so … young. But what else is there?”

If he had a star on his chest, Hunt knew it’d be glowing as he asked,

Hunt: “Partner?”

Bryce: “Not sexy enough.”

Hunt: “Lover?”

Bryce: “Does that come with a ruff and lute?”

He swept a wing over her bare thigh.

Hunt: “Anyone ever tell you that you’re a pain in the ass?”

Bryce: “Just ye olde lover.” He laid a hand over the glowing scar, light shining through his fingers.

Hunt: “Why does it do that?”

Bryce: “Maybe it likes you.”

Hunt: “It glowed for Cormac and Ruhn.”

Bryce: “I didn’t say it was smart.” The Under-King: “Why have you come? And brought Orion Athalar with you?”

Bryce: “Call him Hunt. He gets huffy if you go all formal on him.” Hunt’s voice was a thunderclap as he said behind her,

Hunt: “Light it up, Bryce.” Bryce flipped him off. But Ruhn sniffed her carefully.

Ruhn: “You … smell different.”

Ithan: “She smells like the Istros,”

Ithan said from the couch.

Ruhn: “No, it’s …”

Ruhn’s brows twitched toward each other, and he scratched at the buzzed side of his head.

Ruhn: “I can’t explain it.”

Bryce: “Stop sniffing me, Ruhn.”

Bryce hopped onto the couch on Tharion’s other side.

Bryce: “It’s gross. His phone buzzed, and he fished it out of his pocket to see that a text had arrived from Bryce Sucks My Dick Like a Champ. Hunt choked, scrambling to switch screens as Isaiah peered over his shoulder and laughed.

Isaiah: “I assume you didn’t put that name in there.”

Hunt: “No,”

Hunt hissed. Baxian: “Are you asking if I’m spying on you?”

Bryce: “Either that or you desperately want in on the cool kids’ club.”

Baxian: “A good spy would tell you no, and say you were being paranoid.”

Bryce: “But you’re … not a good spy?”

Baxian: “I’m not a spy at all, and you’re being paranoid.” Hunt: “You traded your resting place in the Bone Quarter for Danika’s.”

Bryce: “Given what happens to everyone over there, I feel kind of relieved about that now.”

Hunt: “Yeah.”

He took one of her hands in his and laid their interlaced fingers atop his heart.

Hunt: “But wherever you’re headed when this life is over, Quinlan, that’s where I want to be, too.” Ithan: “Why does she need to be involved?”

Ithan couldn’t stop his voice from sharpening.

Tharion: “Because I know Legs, and I know she’ll want to come.”

Ithan: “Not if we don’t tell her.”

Tharion: “Oh, I’m going to tell her. I like my balls where they are.” The Harpy tucked in her black wings. She’d been built wiry and long, her face narrow and eyes a bit too large for her features. She went on,

The Harpy: “You always did think more with your cock than your head.”

Hunt: “One of my most winning attributes.” A harsh laugh with too many teeth.

Mordoc: “I was warned you had a mouth on you.”

Bryce blew him a kiss.

Bryce: “Happy not to disappoint my fans.” He tugged on her hair.

Tharion: “I thought we weren’t working together anymore.”

Bryce: “You’re on probation. You can thank your abs for that.”

He took her face in his hands, squeezing her cheeks as he pressed a chaste kiss to her brow.

Tharion: “I’ll send you some photos later. Don’t show Athalar.” His laugh was like dark velvet.

Hunt: “Where would you like me to lick you, Quinlan?” Hunt: “I want you so badly,”

he ground out. She smiled.

Bryce: “Good.”

Hunt: “Good?”

Bryce: “Yeah. Because I’m going to fuck your brains out when you come home to me.”

He laughed softly, full of sensual promise.

Hunt: “Likewise, Quinlan.” Cormac: “You’re not concentrating,”

Cormac scolded.

Bryce: “My head literally aches.”

Cormac: “Focus on that piece of paper and simply step there.”

Bryce: “You say that like it’s easy.”

Cormac: “It is.” Cormac: “I don’t see how you have any right to judge. While you’re busy getting your nails painted, Princess, good people are fighting and dying in this war.”

Bryce wiggled her nails at the rebel.

Bryce: “If I’m going to associate with losers like you, I might as well look good doing it.” Bryce: “We can’t let the Asteri get this suit. Or Ophion—especially the Lightfall squadron.”

Hunt nodded. At least on this, they were on the same page.

Hunt: “They’re going to be so fucking pissed.”

Bryce: “I guess that means it’s business as usual,”

Bryce said, winking despite her pale face. She said to him,

Bryce: “Light it up, Hunt.”

Mind to mind: Ruhn: This was how he was that day with Sandriel. When he ripped off her head. You were in danger then, too.

Bryce: And what’s that supposed to mean?

Ruhn: Why don’t you tell me? You seem like you know what the fuck is happening with him.

Ruhn glared at her as Hunt continued to glow and menace.

Ruhn: It means that he’s going ballistic in the way that only mates can when the other is threatened. It’s what happened then, and what’s happening now. You’re true mates—the way Fae are mates, in your bodies and souls. That’s what was different about your scent the other day. Your scents have merged. As they do between Fae mates.

She glared right back at her brother.

Bryce: So what?

Ruhn: So find some way to calm him down. Athalar’s your fucking problem now.

Bryce sent a mental image of her middle finger back in answer.

Mind to mind: Ruhn: Athalar was dangerous before. But as a mated male, he’s utterly lethal.

Bryce: He was always lethal.

Ruhn: Not like this. There’s no mercy in him. He’s gone lethal in a Fae way. In that predatory, kill-all-enemies way.

Bryce: He’s an angel.

Ruhn: Doesn’t seem to matter.

One look at Hunt’s hard face, and she knew Ruhn was right. Some small part of her thrilled at it—that he’d descended this far into some primal instinct to try to save her. Alphaholes can have their uses Woman: “He is going to kill you,”

she said in a voice rasping with disuse. But her eyes weren’t on Ithan. They were on Flynn, his hammer raised again, as if it would do anything against the sort of fire she bore.

Woman: “He is going to find you and kill you.”

But Flynn, stupid, arrogant asshole that he was, got to his feet and grinned cheerfully down at the curvy female on the coffee table.

Flynn: “Good thing a dragon now owes me a debt.” Calm down, Ruhn said into Athalar’s mind. Thunderstorms boomed in answer. All right, then. Flynn: “You’re Ridi.”

Rithi: “Rithi!”

she squeaked.

Flynn: “Rithi,”

Flynn amended with a smile. He pointed to the full-bodied sprite before him.

Flynn: “You’re Malana.”

She beamed. He pointed to the sprite to the right of her.

Flynn: “And you’re Sasa. And you’re triplets.”

Malana: “Yes,”

Malana said, long hair floating in the air around her.

Malana: “Descendants of Persina Falath, Lady of Cinders.” Flynn arched a brow.

Flynn: “A dragon named Ariadne?”

Ariadne: “I suppose you have a better name for me?”

Flynn: “Skull-Crusher, Winged Doom, Light-Eater.”

Flynn ticked them off on his fingers. She’d had no shame, not even a blush, striding in here—the two of them wearing navy-blue aquatic body armor they’d taken from the air lock to cover themselves. Ruhn had looked thoroughly uncomfortable, but Tharion had laughed at Hunt’s disheveled hair and whatever stupid happiness was on his face, and said,

Tharion: “Good work bringing our boy back, Legs.”

Bryce had gone right to Cormac and explained what had happened in the most Quinlan-like way Hunt could imagine:

Bryce: “Right at the end of banging Hunt’s brains out, right when we came together, we wound up in the air lock.” Hunt lifted his brows.

Hunt: “In what way?”

Bryce: “If my powers only work if my big, tough male helps me out—”

Hunt: “It can’t be romantic?”

Hunt demanded. Bryce huffed.

Bryce: “I’m an independent female.”

Hunt: “All right,”

Hunt said, laughing softly.

Hunt: “Let’s just say that I’m like some magic token in a video game and when you … use me, you level up.”

Bryce: “That is the dorkiest thing you’ve ever said,”

Bryce accused, and Hunt sketched a bow. He didn’t smile back. Just looked at Sofie, dead and gone before him. So Bryce touched the prince’s hand.

Bryce: “We’ll make them all pay.” Hypaxia: “You are kind, and caring. And seem to love those around you. I can’t think of anything else needed to be a father.”

Ruhn: “How about growing the Hel up and not partying so much?”

She laughed.

Hypaxia: “All right. Maybe that.” Hunt: “I might be tired, but I’m ready for round two when you are.”

Her blood heated.

Bryce: “Good. I’d hate for you to be unable to keep up in your old age.” Flynn: “So, you know how you’re always saying that it’s pretty sexist that we don’t have any female roommates …”

Ruhn: “I’ve never said tha—”

Flynn gestured to the foyer behind him.

Flynn: “Well, here you go.”

Ruhn blinked as three fire sprites zoomed in, landing on Flynn’s broad shoulders. A full-bodied one cuddled up against his neck, smiling.

Flynn: “Meet the triplets. Rithi, Sasa, and Malana.”

The taller of the slender ones—Sasa—batted her eyelashes at Ruhn.

Sasa: “Prince.”

Ruhn: “Our insurance rates will go sky-high,”

Ruhn said to Declan, appealing to the slightly-less-insane of his roommates.

Flynn: “When the fuck did you become a grown-up?”

Flynn barked. Ithan jerked his chin toward the doorway again.

Ithan: “Wait to have your meltdown until after you meet the fourth new roommate.”

A short, curvy female walked in, her wavy black hair nearly down to her waist. Most of her tan skin was hidden by the plaid blanket wrapped around her naked body. But her eyes—burning Solas. They were bloodred. Glowing like embers.

Flynn: “Ariadne, meet Ruhn. Ruhn, meet Ariadne.”

She held Ruhn’s stare, and he stilled as he caught a glimmer of something molten course beneath the skin of her forearm, making her flesh look like … scales. Ruhn whirled on Dec and Flynn.

Ruhn: “I was gone for a day! Sunrise to sunrise! And I come back to a dragon? Where did she come from?” Bryce: “What’s your name?”

Ariadne: “Ariadne.”

Flynn: “Ari for short,”

Ariadne: “Never Ari,” Hunt: “You drive me fucking crazy, you know that?”

Bryce: “And you’re a domineering alphahole, you know that?”

Hunt: “I’m not domineering.”

He nibbled at her ear.

Bryce: “But you’ll admit you’re an alphahole?”

His fingers dug into her hips, tugging her back against him. The hardness there.

Hunt: “You want to fuck it out, then?” Bryce: “Trash gets dumped in the back,”

she said without looking up.

The Autumn King: “I see your irreverence has not been altered by your new immortality.” Bryce: “Well, this is the most depressing girl talk I’ve ever had.”

Hypaxia: “It’s the first girl talk I’ve ever had.”

Bryce: “Normal girls dish about normal shit.”

Hypaxia: “You and I are not normal girls.” When she finished, Ruhn echoed Hunt’s words.

Ruhn: “We got lucky tonight. You got lucky tonight.”

Bryce winked at Hunt.

Bryce: “And I plan to get lucky again.”

Ruhn: “Gross,” Tharion: “Have you kept up the tally? How many times has Prince Ruhn gawked at you since you arrived?” Bryce: “Hunt.”

He blinked.

Bryce: “Your eyes went all … rage-dazey.”

She sniffled.

Hunt: “Sorry.” Ruhn: “You consider me a friend?”

Day: “In a world full of enemies, you’re my only friend.”

Ruhn: “Well, maybe I should give you friendship lessons, because you fucking blow at it.” Bryce faced her father. The Autumn King said in a voice so low no one else could hear,

The Autumn King: “You little bitch.”

Bryce smiled broadly.

Bryce: “It’s ‘You little bitch, Your Highness.’ ” Hunt: “Everything that ever happened to me, it was all so I could meet you, Quinlan. Be here with you. I’m yours. Forever.”

Her throat tightened, and the star on her chest flared, lighting up the entire conservatory like a small moon. Bryce kissed him back, not caring who saw, only that he was here.

Bryce: “Everything I am is yours,” Bryce: “More,”

she snarled, hips rising as if she’d impale herself on him. Hunt laughed.

Hunt: “Who am I to deny a princess?”

Her eyes flashed with desire hot enough to sear his soul.

Bryce: “I’m issuing a royal decree for you to fuck me, Hunt. Hard.” Apollion’s mouth curved upward.

Apollion: “You do not cower before me.”

Bryce: “Aidas kind of ruined your scary-monster vibe.” Hunt: “We owe you big-time,”

Declan: “Pay me in booze. It’ll be a comfort while I worry about when the dreadwolves will show up at my door.”

Bryce gave him a flat look.

Bryce: “Really? I had no idea.”

Flynn flipped her off, and the sprites ooohed at his shoulder. Bryce rolled her eyes. Exactly what Flynn needed: his own flock of cheerleaders trailing him at all hours.

Bryce: “Hey, remember that time you set a dragon free and were dumb enough to think she’d follow your orders?”

Flynn: “Hey, remember that time you wanted to marry me and wrote Lady Bryce Flynn in all your notebooks?”

Hunt choked. Bryce countered with,

Bryce: “Hey, remember when you pestered me for years to hook up with you, but I have something called standards—”

Hypaxia: “This is highly unusual behavior for royals,”

Hypaxia observed.

Ruhn: “You have no idea,”

Ruhn muttered, earning a smile from the queen. Ithan: “Ruhn didn’t tell you about, uh, my past?”

Tharion: “You mean about you having a thing for Bryce? No.”

Ithan: “Then how the fuck do you know?”

Tharion: “She’s Bryce. Everyone has got a thing for her.” Ruhn: “Can’t you leave him?”

She laughed, harsh and hollow.

Day: “No. My fate is bound to his.”

Ruhn: “Your fate is bound to mine.”

The words echoed into the darkness. Ruhn: “You and me. Prince to prince. Future king to future king. Screw the past, and screw that shit with the Starsword. Screw our fathers. We don’t let them decide who we get to be.”

Ruhn extended his hand.

Ruhn: “We’ll carve our own paths.”

Cormac smiled almost sadly. Then took Ruhn’s hand, clasping firmly.

Cormac: “It’d be an honor.” Bryce: “Team Fuck-You, remember? We’ll kick ass.”

He chuckled, holding her tightly.

Ruhn: “Team Fuck-You forever.” Rigelus: “You think Micah acted alone? He was a brash, arrogant male. All it took was some nudging, and he killed her for us. Had no idea it was on our behalf, but it played out as we planned: he was eventually caught and killed for disturbing our peace. I thank you for that.”

Bryce shot from her chair. They’d killed Danika—to keep all of this secret. She would rip them to shreds. Rigelus: “I suppose you’re pleased to have added yet another angel to your kill list with the death of the Harpy,”

the Bright Hand of the Asteri drawled to Bryce, stare sweeping over the blood caked on her.

Rigelus: “I do hope you’re ready to pay for it.” Hunt stared at his severed wings, mounted on the wall high above the Asteri’s thrones. Shahar’s pristine white wings were displayed above his, still glowing after all these centuries, right in the center of the array. Isaiah’s were to the left of Hunt’s. So many wings. So many Fallen. All preserved here. He’d known the Asteri had kept them. But seeing them … It was proof of his failure. Proof that he should never have come here, that they should have told Ophion and Tharion and Cormac to fuck off—

Bryce: “I did you a favor, killing the Harpy. She was a drag.” Hunt: “I love you. I wish I’d said it more. But I love you, Quinlan, and …”

His throat closed up, his eyes stinging. His lips brushed her brow.

Hunt: “Our love is stronger than time, greater than any distance. Our love spans across stars and worlds. I will find you again. I promise.”

 




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