Home > House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)(8)

House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)(8)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

“Way to throw him under the bus,” Randall said while keeping his attention on a nearby information placard.

Before Bryce could answer, Ember said, “Don’t think I haven’t noticed things between you two are weird.”

Trust her mom to bring up two topics she didn’t want to talk about in the space of five minutes. “In what way?”

“You’re together but not together,” Ember said bluntly. “What’s that about?”

“It’s none of your business.” It really wasn’t. But as if he’d heard her, the phone in her clutch buzzed. She yanked it out and peered at the screen.

Hunt had written, I can only hope to have abs like those one day.

Bryce couldn’t help her half smile as she peered back at the muscular Fae male on the frieze before answering. I think you might have a few on him, actually …

“Don’t ignore me, Bryce Adelaide Quinlan.”

Her phone buzzed again, but she didn’t read Hunt’s reply as she said to her mother, “Can you please drop it? And don’t bring it up when Hunt gets here.”

Ember’s mouth popped open, but Randall said, “Agreed. No job or romance interrogations when Hunt arrives.”

Her mother frowned doubtfully, but Bryce said, “Mom, just … stop, okay? I don’t mind my job, and the thing between me and Hunt is what he and I agreed on. I’m doing fine. Let’s leave it at that.”

It was a lie. Sort of.

She actually liked her job—a lot. The private wing of the Fae Archives housed a trove of ancient artifacts that had been sorely neglected for centuries—now in need of researching and cataloging so they could be sent on a traveling exhibit next spring.

She set her own hours, answering only to the head of research, an owl shifter—one of the rare non-Fae staff—who only worked from dusk to dawn, so they barely overlapped. The worst part of her day was entering the sprawling complex through the main buildings, where the sentries all gawked at her. Some even bowed. And then she had to walk through the atrium, where the librarians and patrons tended to stare, too.

Everyone these days stared—she really fucking hated it. But Bryce didn’t want to tell her mom any of that.

Ember said, “Fine. You know I just worry.”

Something in Bryce’s chest softened. “I know, Mom. And I know …” She struggled for the words. “It really helps to know that I can move back home if I want to. But not right now.”

“Fair enough,” Randall chimed in, giving Ember a pointed glance before looping his arm around her waist and steering her toward another frieze across the theater lobby.

Bryce used their distraction to take out her phone, and found that Hunt had written two messages:

Want to count my abs when we get home from the ballet?

Her stomach tightened, and she’d never been more grateful that her parents possessed a human sense of smell as her toes curled in her heels.

Hunt had added, I’ll be there in five, by the way. Isaiah held me up with a new case.

She sent a thumbs-up, then replied: Pleaaaaaase get here ASAP. I just got a major grilling about my job. And you.

Hunt wrote back immediately, and Bryce read as she slowly trailed her parents to where they observed the frieze: What about me?

“Bryce,” her mom called, pointing to the frieze before her. “Check out this one. It’s JJ.”

Bryce looked up from her phone and grinned. “Badass warrior Jelly Jubilee.” There, hanging on the wall, was a rendering of a pegasus—though not a unicorn-pegasus, like Bryce’s childhood toy—charging into battle. An armored figure, helmet obscuring any telltale features, rode atop the beast, sword upraised. Bryce snapped a photo and sent it to Hunt.

First Wars JJ, reporting for duty!

She was about to reply to Hunt’s What about me? question when her mom said, “Tell Hunt to stop flirting and hurry up already.”

Bryce scowled at her mom and put her phone away.

So many things had changed since revealing her heritage as the Autumn King’s daughter and a Starborn heir: people gawking, the hat and sunglasses she now wore on the street to attain some level of anonymity, the job at the Fae Archives. But at least her mother remained the same.

Bryce couldn’t decide whether that was a comfort or not.

Entering the private box in the angels’ section of the theater—the stage-left boxes a level above the floor—Bryce grinned toward the heavy golden curtain blocking the stage from sight. Only ten minutes remained until the show began. Until the world could see how insanely talented Juniper was.

Ember gracefully sank into one of the red velvet chairs at the front of the box, Randall claiming the seat beside her. Bryce’s mother didn’t smile. Considering that the royal Fae boxes occupied the wing across from them, Bryce didn’t blame her. And considering that many of the bejeweled and shining nobility were staring at Bryce, it was a miracle Ember hadn’t flipped them off yet.

Randall whistled at the prime seats as he peered over the golden rail. “Nice view.”

The air behind Bryce went electric, buzzing and alive. The hair on her arms prickled. A male voice sounded from the vestibule, “A benefit to having wings: no one wants to sit behind you.”

Bryce had developed a keen awareness of Hunt’s presence, like scenting lightning on the wind. He had only to enter a room and she’d know if he was there by that surge of power in her body. Like her magic, her very blood answered to his.

Now she found Hunt standing in the doorway, already tugging at the black tie around his neck.

Just … gods-damn.

He’d worn a black suit and white shirt, both cut to his powerful, muscled body, and the effect was devastating. Add in the gray wings framing it all and she was a goner.

Hunt smirked knowingly, but nodded to Randall. “You clean up good, man. Sorry I’m late.” Bryce could barely hear her dad’s reply as she surveyed the veritable malakim feast before her.

Hunt had cut his hair shorter last month. Not too short, since she’d staged an intervention with the stylist before the draki male could chop off all those beautiful locks, but gone was the shoulder-length hair. The shorter style suited him, but it was still a shock weeks later to find his hair neatly trimmed to his nape, with only a few pieces in the front still unruly enough to peek through the hole in his sunball hat. Tonight, however, he’d brushed it into submission, revealing the clear expanse of his forehead.

That was still a shock, too: no tattoo. No sign of the years of torment the angel had endured beyond the C stamped over the slave’s tattoo on his right wrist, marking him a free male. Not a full citizen, but closer to it than the peregrini.

The mark was hidden by the cuff of his suit jacket and the shirt beneath, and Bryce lifted her gaze to Hunt’s face. Her mouth went dry at the bald hunger filling his dark, angular eyes. “You look okay, too,” he said, winking.

Randall coughed, but leafed through the playbill. Ember did the same beside him.

Bryce ran a hand down the front of her blue dress. “This old thing?”

Hunt chuckled, and tugged on his tie again.

Bryce sighed. “Please tell me you’re not one of those big, tough males who makes a big fuss about how he hates getting dressed up.”

It was Ember’s turn to cough, but Hunt’s eyes danced as he said to Bryce, “Good thing I don’t have to do it that often, huh?”

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