Authors: Sarah J. Maas
Hunt asked a shade more gently, “Known better about what?”
“All of it,” Sabine snapped, and again shook her head, clearing her grief away. “Starting with that slut of a roommate.” She whirled on Isaiah, the portrait of wrath. “Tell me
Hunt said coolly, “He doesn’t have to tell you shit, Fendyr.”
As Commander of the 33rd Imperial Legion, Isaiah held an equal rank to Sabine: they both sat on the same governing councils, both answered to males of power within their own ranks and their own Houses.
Sabine’s canines lengthened as she surveyed Hunt. “Did I fucking speak to you, Athalar?”
Hunt’s eyes glittered. But Isaiah pulled out his phone, typing as he cut in calmly, “We’re still getting the reports in. Viktoria is coming to talk to Miss Quinlan right now.”
“I’ll talk to her,” Sabine seethed. Her fingers curled, as if ready
to rip out Hunt’s throat. Hunt gave her a sharp smile that told her to just try, the lightning around his knuckles twining up his wrist.
And fortunately for Isaiah, the interrogation room’s door opened and a dark-haired woman in an immaculately tailored navy suit walked in.
They were a front, those suits that he and Viktoria wore. A sort of armor, yes, but also a last attempt to pretend that they were even remotely normal.
It was no wonder Hunt never bothered with them.
As Viktoria made her graceful approach, Bryce gave no acknowledgment of the stunning female who usually made people of
Houses do a double take.
But Bryce had been that way for hours now. Blood still stained the white bandage around her bare thigh. Viktoria sniffed delicately, her pale green eyes narrowing beneath the halo’s dark tattoo on her brow. The wraith had been one of the few non-malakim who had rebelled with them two centuries ago. She’d been given to Micah soon afterward, and her punishment had gone beyond the brow tattoo and slave markings. Not nearly as brutal as what Isaiah and Hunt had endured in the Asteri’s dungeons, and then in various Archangels’ dungeons for years afterward, but its own form of torment that lasted even when their own had stopped.
Viktoria said, “Miss Quinlan.”
She didn’t respond.
The wraith dragged over a steel chair from the wall and set it on the other side of the table. Pulling a file from her jacket, Viktoria crossed her long legs as she perched on the seat.
“Can you tell me who is responsible for the bloodshed tonight?”
Not even a hitch of breath. Sabine growled softly.
The wraith folded her alabaster hands in her lap, the unnatural elegance the only sign of the ancient power that rippled beneath the calm surface.
Vik had no body of her own. Though she’d fought in the 18th, Isaiah had learned her history only when he’d arrived here ten years ago. How Viktoria had acquired this particular body, who it had once belonged to, he didn’t ask. She hadn’t told him. Wraiths
wore bodies the way some people owned cars. Vainer wraiths switched them often, usually at the first sign of aging, but Viktoria had held on to this one for longer than usual, liking its build and movement, she’d said.
Now she held on to it because she had no choice. It had been Micah’s punishment for her rebellion: to trap her within this body. Forever. No more changing, no more trading up for something newer and sleeker. For two hundred years, Vik had been contained, forced to weather the slow erosion of the body, now plainly visible: the thin lines starting to carve themselves around her eyes, the crease now etched in her forehead above the tattoo’s twining band of thorns.
“Quinlan’s gone into shock,” Hunt observed, monitoring Bryce’s every breath. “She’s not going to talk.”
Isaiah was inclined to agree, until Viktoria opened the file, scanned a piece of paper, and said, “I, for one, believe that you are not in full control of your body or actions right now.”
And then she read a shopping list of a cocktail of drugs and alcohol that would stop a human’s heart dead. Stop a lesser Vanir’s heart, too, for that matter.
Hunt swore again. “Is there anything she didn’t snort or smoke tonight?”
Sabine bristled. “Half-breed trash—”
Isaiah threw Hunt a look. All that was needed to convey the request.
Never an order—he’d never dared to order Hunt around. Not when the male possessed a hair-trigger temper that had left entire imperial fighting units in smoldering cinders. Even with the spells of the halo binding that lightning to a tenth of its full strength, Hunt’s skills as a warrior made up for it.
But Hunt’s chin dipped, his only sign that he’d agreed to Isaiah’s request. “You’ll need to complete some paperwork upstairs, Sabine.” Hunt blew out a breath, as if reminding himself that Sabine was a mother who had lost her only child tonight, and added, “If you want time to yourself, you can take it, but you need to sign—”
“Fuck signing things and fuck time to myself. Crucify the bitch
if you have to, but get her to give a statement.” Sabine spat on the tiles at Hunt’s booted feet.
Ether coated Isaiah’s tongue as Hunt gave her the cool stare that served as his only warning to opponents on a battlefield. None had ever survived what happened next.
Sabine seemed to remember that, and wisely stormed into the hall. She flexed her hand as she did, four razor-sharp claws appearing, and slashed them through the metal door.
Hunt smiled at her disappearing figure. A target marked. Not today, not even tomorrow, but at one point in the future …
And people claimed the shifters got along better with the angels than the Fae.
Viktoria was saying gently to Bryce, “We have video footage from the White Raven, confirming your whereabouts. We have footage of you walking home.”
Cameras covered all of Lunathion, with unparalleled visual and audio coverage, but Bryce’s apartment building was old, and the mandatory monitors in the hallways hadn’t been repaired in decades. The landlord would be getting a visit tonight for the code violations that had fucked this entire investigation. One tiny sliver of audio was all the building cameras had managed to catch—just the audio. It held nothing beyond what they already knew. The phones of the Pack of Devils had all been destroyed in the attack. Not one message had gone out.
“What we don’t have footage of, Bryce,” Viktoria went on, “is what happened in that apartment. Can you tell me?”
Slowly, as if she drifted back into her battered body, Bryce turned her amber eyes to Viktoria.
“Where’s her family?” Hunt asked roughly.
“Human mother lives with the stepfather in one of the mountain towns up north—both peregrini,” Isaiah said. “The sire wasn’t registered or refused to acknowledge paternity. Fae, obviously. And likely one with some standing, since he bothered to get her civitas status.”
Most of the offspring born to human mothers took their peregrini rank. And though Bryce had something of the Fae’s elegant
beauty, her face marked her as human—the gold-dusted skin, the smattering of freckles over her nose and high cheekbones, the full mouth. Even if the silken flow of red hair and arched ears were pure Fae.
“Have the human parents been notified?”
Isaiah dragged a hand over his tight brown curls. He’d been awoken by his phone’s shrill ringing at two in the morning, hurtled from the barracks a minute after that, and was now starting to feel the effects of a sleepless night. Dawn was likely not far off. “Her mother was hysterical. She asked over and over if we knew why they’d attacked the apartment, or if it was Philip Briggs. She saw on the news that he’d been released on a technicality and was certain he did this. I have a patrol from the 31st flying out right now; the parents will be airborne within the hour.”
Viktoria’s voice slid through the intercom as she continued her interview. “Can you describe the creature that attacked your friends?”
But Quinlan was gone again, her eyes vacant.
They had fuzzy footage thanks to the street cameras, but the demon had moved faster than the wind and had known to keep out of lens range. They hadn’t been able to ID it yet—even Hunt’s extensive knowledge hadn’t helped. All they had of it was a vague, grayish blur no slowdown could clarify. And Bryce Quinlan, charging barefoot through the city streets.
“That girl isn’t ready to give a statement,” Hunt said. “This is a waste of our time.”
But Isaiah asked him, “Why does Sabine hate Bryce so much—why imply she’s to blame for all this?” When Hunt didn’t answer, Isaiah jerked his chin toward two files on the edge of the desk. “Look at Quinlan’s. Only one standing crime before this—for public indecency during a Summer Solstice parade. She got a little frisky against a wall and was caught in the act. Holding cell overnight, paid the fine the next day, did community service for a month to get it wiped off any permanent record.” Isaiah could have sworn a ghost of a smile appeared on Hunt’s mouth.
But Isaiah tapped a calloused finger on the impressively thick
stack beside it. “This is part
of Danika Fendyr’s file. Of seven. Starts with petty theft when she was ten, continues until she reached her majority five years ago. Then it goes eerily quiet. If you ask me, Bryce was the one who was led down a road of ruination—and then maybe led Danika out of hers.”
“Not far enough to keep from snorting enough lightseeker to kill a horse,” Hunt said. “I’m assuming she didn’t party alone. Were there any other friends with her tonight?”
“Two others. Juniper Andromeda, a faun who’s a soloist at the City Ballet, and …” Isaiah flipped open the case file and muttered a prayer. “Fury Axtar.”
Hunt swore softly at the mercenary’s name.
Fury Axtar was licensed to kill in half a dozen countries. Including this one.
Hunt asked, “Fury was with Quinlan tonight?”
They’d crossed paths with the merc enough to know to stay the Hel away. Micah had even ordered Hunt to kill her. Twice.
But she had too many high-powered allies. Some, it was whispered, on the Imperial Senate. So both times, Micah had decided that the fallout over the Umbra Mortis turning Fury Axtar into veritable toast would be more trouble than it was worth.
“Yes,” Isaiah said. “Fury was with her at the club.”
Hunt frowned. But Viktoria leaned in to speak to Bryce once more.
“We’re trying to find who did this. Can you give us the information we need?”
Only a shell sat before the wraith.
Viktoria said, in that luxurious purr that usually had people eating out of her palm, “I want to help you. I want to find who did this. And punish them.”
Viktoria reached into her pocket, pulled out her phone, and set it faceup on the table. Instantly, its digital feed appeared on the small screen in the room with Isaiah and Hunt. They glanced between the wraith and the screen as a series of messages opened.
“We downloaded the data from your phone. Can you walk me through these?”
Glassy eyes tracked a small screen that rose from a hidden compartment in the linoleum floor. It displayed the same messages Isaiah and Hunt now read.
The first one, sent from Bryce, read,
TV nights are for waggle-tailed pups. Come play with the big bitches
And then a short, dark video, shaking as someone roared with laughter while Bryce flipped off the camera, leaned over a line of white powder—lightseeker—and sniffed it right up her freckled nose. She was laughing, so bright and alive that the woman in the room before them looked like a gutted corpse, and she shrieked into the camera, “LIGHT IT UP, DANIKAAAAA!”
Danika’s written reply was precisely what Isaiah expected from the Prime Apparent of the wolves, whom he’d seen only from a distance at formal events and who had seemed poised to start trouble wherever she went:
I FUCKING HATE YOU. STOP DOING LIGHTSEEKER WITHOUT ME. ASSHOLE.
Party Princess, indeed.
Bryce had written back twenty minutes later,
I just hooked up with someone in the bathroom. Don’t tell Connor
Hunt shook his head.
But Bryce sat there as Viktoria read the messages aloud, the wraith stone-faced.
Danika wrote back,
Was it good?!!?
Only good enough to take the edge off.
“This isn’t relevant,” Hunt murmured. “Pull in Viktoria.”
“We have our orders.”
“Fuck the orders. That woman is about to break, and not in a good way.”
Then Bryce stopped responding to Danika.
But Danika kept messaging. One after another. Over the next two hours.
The show’s over. Where are you assholes?
Why aren’t you picking up your phone? I’m calling Fury.
Where the FUCK is Fury?
Juniper never brings her phone, so I’m not even gonna bother with her. Where are you?!!!
Should I come to the club? The pack’s leaving in ten. Stop fucking strangers in the bathroom, because Connor’s coming with me.
BRYYYYCE. When you look at your phone, I hope the 1,000 alerts piss you off.
Thorne is telling me to stop messaging you. I told him to mind his own fucking business.
Connor says to grow the Hel up and stop doing shady-ass drugs, because only losers do that shit. He wasn’t happy when I said I’m not sure I can let you date a holier-than-thou priss.
Okay, we’re leaving in five. See you soon, cocksucker. Light it up.
Bryce stared at the screen unblinkingly, her torn face sickly pale in the light of the monitor.
“The building’s cameras are mostly broken, but the one in the hall was still able to record some audio, though its video footage was down,” Viktoria said calmly. “Shall I play it?”
No response. So Viktoria played it.
Muffled snarling and screaming filled the speakers—quiet enough that it was clear the hall camera had picked up only the loudest noises coming from the apartment. And then someone was roaring—a feral wolf’s roar. “
The words were cut off. But the hall camera’s audio wasn’t.
Danika Fendyr screamed. Something tumbled and crashed in the background—as if she’d been thrown into furniture. And the hall camera kept recording.