Home > House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)(4)

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)(4)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

Half brother. Bryce didn’t bother to correct her. Half brother and full-Fae prick. “And?”

“Just thought I’d warn you that I’ll be seeing him.” The wolf’s face softened slightly. “He’s going to ask me how you’re doing.”

“Tell Ruhn I’m busy doing important shit and to go to Hel.”

Danika huffed a laugh. “Where, exactly, are you doing this sleuthing for the Horn?”

“The temple,” Bryce said with a sigh. “Honestly, I’ve been looking into this thing for days on end, and can’t figure out anything. No suspects, no murmurings at the Meat Market about it being for sale, no motive for who’d even bother with it. It’s famous enough that whoever’s got it has it wrapped up tight.” She frowned at the clear sky. “I almost wonder if the power outage was tied to it—if someone shut down the city’s grid to steal it in the chaos. There are about twenty people in this city capable of being that crafty, and half of them possess the resources to pull it off.”

Danika’s tail twitched. “If they’re able to do something like that, I’d suggest staying away. Lead Jesiba around a bit, make her think you’re looking for it, and then let it drop. Either the Horn will show up by then, or she’ll move on to her next stupid quest.”

Bryce admitted, “I just … It’d be good to find the Horn. For my own career.” Whatever the Hel that would be. A year of working at the gallery hadn’t sparked anything beyond disgust at the obscene amounts of money that rich people squandered on old-ass shit.

Danika’s eyes flickered. “Yeah, I know.”

Bryce zipped a tiny golden pendant—a knot of three entwined circles—along the delicate chain around her neck.

Danika went on patrol armed with claws, a sword, and guns, but Bryce’s daily armor consisted solely of this: an Archesian amulet barely the size of her thumbnail, gifted by Jesiba on the first day of work.

A hazmat suit in a necklace, Danika had marveled when Bryce had shown off the amulet’s considerable protections against the influence of various magical objects. Archesian amulets didn’t come cheap, but Bryce didn’t bother to delude herself into thinking her boss’s gift was given out of anything but self-interest. It would have been an insurance nightmare if Bryce didn’t have one.

Danika nodded to the necklace. “Don’t take that off. Especially if you’re looking into shit like the Horn.” Even though the Horn’s mighty powers had long been dead—if it had been stolen by someone powerful, she’d need every magical defense against them.

“Yeah, yeah,” Bryce said, though Danika was right. She’d never taken the necklace off since getting it. If Jesiba ever kicked her to the curb, she knew she’d have to find some way to make sure the necklace came with her. Danika had said as much several times, unable to stop that Alpha wolf’s instinct to protect at all costs. It was part of why Bryce loved her—and why her chest tightened in that moment with that same love and gratitude.

Bryce’s phone buzzed in her purse, and she fished it out. Danika peered over, noted who was calling, and wagged her tail, ears perking up.

“Do not say a word about Briggs,” Bryce warned, and accepted the call. “Hi, Mom.”

“Hey, sweetie.” Ember Quinlan’s clear voice filled her ear, drawing a smile from Bryce even with three hundred miles between them. “I wanted to double-check that next weekend is still okay to visit.”

“Hi, Mommy!” Danika barked toward the phone.

Ember laughed. Ember had always been Mom to Danika, even from their first meeting. And Ember, who had never borne any children beyond Bryce, had been more than glad to find herself with a second—equally willful and troublesome—daughter. “Danika’s with you?”

Bryce rolled her eyes and held out the phone to her friend. Between one step and the next, Danika shifted in a flash of light, the massive wolf shrinking into the lithe humanoid form.

Snatching the phone from Bryce, Danika pinned it between her ear and shoulder as she adjusted the white silk blouse Bryce had loaned her, tucking it into her stained jeans. She’d managed to wipe a good amount of the nightstalker gunk off both the pants and leather jacket, but the T-shirt had apparently been a lost cause. Danika said into the phone, “Bryce and I are taking a walk.”

With Bryce’s arched ears, she could hear her mother perfectly as she said, “Where?”

Ember Quinlan made overprotectiveness a competitive sport.

Moving here, to Lunathion, had been a test of wills. Ember had only relented when she’d learned who Bryce’s freshman-year roommate was—and then gave Danika a lecture on how to make sure Bryce stayed safe. Randall, Bryce’s stepfather, had mercifully cut his wife off after thirty minutes.

Bryce knows how to defend herself, Randall had reminded Ember. We saw to that. And Bryce will keep up her training while she’s here, won’t she?

Bryce certainly had. She’d hit up the gun range just a few days ago, going through the motions Randall—her true father, as far as she was concerned—had taught her since childhood: assembling a gun, taking aim at a target, controlling her breathing.

Most days, she found guns to be brutal killing machines, and felt grateful that they were highly regulated by the Republic. But given that she had little more to defend herself beyond speed and a few well-placed maneuvers, she’d learned that for a human, a gun could mean the difference between life and slaughter.

Danika fibbed, “We’re just heading to one of the hawker stalls in the Old Square—we wanted some lamb kofta.”

Before Ember could continue the interrogation, Danika added, “Hey, B must have forgotten to tell you that we’re actually heading down to Kalaxos next weekend—Ithan’s got a sunball game there, and we’re all going to cheer him on.”

A half-truth. The game was happening, but there had been no discussion of going to watch Connor’s younger brother, CCU’s star player. This afternoon, the Pack of Devils was actually heading over to the CCU arena to cheer for Ithan, but Bryce and Danika hadn’t bothered to attend an away game since sophomore year, when Danika had been sleeping with one of the defensemen.

“That’s too bad,” Ember said. Bryce could practically hear the frown in her mother’s tone. “We were really looking forward to it.”

Burning Solas, this woman was a master of the guilt trip. Bryce cringed and snatched back the phone. “So were we, but let’s reschedule for next month.”

“But that’s so long from now—”

“Shit, a client’s coming down the street,” Bryce lied. “I gotta go.”

“Bryce Adelaide Quinlan—”

“Bye, Mom.”

“Bye, Mom!” Danika echoed, just as Bryce hung up.

Bryce sighed toward the sky, ignoring the angels soaring and flapping past, their shadows dancing over the sun-washed streets. “Message incoming in three, two …”

Her phone buzzed.

Ember had written, If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were avoiding us, Bryce. Your father will be very hurt.

Danika let out a whistle. “Oh, she’s good.”

Bryce groaned. “I’m not letting them come to the city if Briggs is running free.”

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