Home > House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)(8)

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)(8)
Author: Sarah J. Maas

Danika drank again. “No clue who did it.” A shiver, her caramel eyes darkening. “Even with their scents marking them as human, it took twenty minutes to identify who they were. They were ripped to shreds and partially eaten.”

Bryce tried not to imagine it. “Motive?”

Danika’s throat bobbed. “No idea, either. But Sabine told me in front of everyone exactly what she thought of such a public butchering happening on my watch.”

Bryce asked, “What’d the Prime say about it?”

“Nothing,” Danika said. “The old man fell asleep during the meeting, and Sabine didn’t bother to wake him before cornering me.” It would be soon now, everyone said—only a matter of a year or two until the current Prime of the wolves, nearly four hundred years old, had his Sailing across the Istros to the Bone Quarter for his final sleep. There was no way the black boat would tip for him during the final rite—no way his soul would be deemed unworthy and given to the river. He’d be welcomed into the Under-King’s realm, granted access to its mist-veiled shores … and then Sabine’s reign would begin.

Gods spare them all.

“It’s not your fault, you know,” Bryce said, flipping open the cardboard lids of the two closest pizza boxes. Sausage, pepperoni, and meatball in one. The other held cured meats and stinky cheeses—Bronson’s choice, no doubt.

“I know,” Danika muttered, draining the last of her beer, clunking the bottle in the sink, and rooting around in the fridge for another. Every muscle in her lean body seemed taut—on a hair trigger. She slammed the fridge shut and leaned against it. Danika didn’t meet Bryce’s eyes as she breathed, “I was three blocks away that night. Three. And I didn’t hear or see or smell them being shredded.”

Bryce became aware of the silence from the other room. Keen hearing in both human and wolf form meant endless, entitled eavesdropping.

They could finish this conversation later.

Bryce flipped open the rest of the pizza boxes, surveying the culinary landscape. “Shouldn’t you put them out of their misery and let them get a bite before you demolish the rest?”

She’d had the pleasure of witnessing Danika eat three large pies in one sitting. In this sort of mood, Danika might very well break her record and hit four.

“Please let us eat,” begged Bronson’s deep, rumbling voice from the other room.

Danika swigged from her beer. “Come get it, mongrels.”

The wolves rushed in.

In the frenzy, Bryce was nearly flattened against the back wall of the kitchen, the monthly calendar pinned to it crumpling behind her.

Damn it—she loved that calendar: Hottest Bachelors of Crescent City: Clothing-Optional Edition. This month had the most gorgeous daemonaki she’d ever seen, his propped leg on a stool the only thing keeping everything from being shown. She smoothed out the new wrinkles in all the tan skin and muscles, the curling horns, and then turned to scowl at the wolves.

A step away, Danika stood among her pack like a stone in a river. She smirked at Bryce. “Any update on your hunt for the Horn?”

“No.”

“Jesiba must be thrilled.”

Bryce grimaced. “Overjoyed.” She’d seen Jesiba for all of two minutes this afternoon before the sorceress threatened to turn Bryce into a donkey, and then vanished in a chauffeured sedan to the gods knew where. Maybe off on some errand for the Under-King and the dark House he ruled.

Danika grinned. “Don’t you have that date with what’s-his-face tonight?”

The question clanged through Bryce. “Shit. Shit. Yes.” She winced at the kitchen clock. “In an hour.”

Connor, taking an entire pizza box for himself, stiffened. He’d made his thoughts on Bryce’s rich-ass boyfriend clear since the first date two months ago. Just as Bryce had made it perfectly clear she did not give a fuck about Connor’s opinion regarding her love life.

Bryce took in his muscled back as Connor stalked out, rolling his broad shoulders. Danika frowned. She never missed a fucking thing.

“I need to get dressed,” Bryce said, scowling. “And his name is Reid, and you know it.”

A wolfish smile. “Reid’s a stupid fucking name,” Danika said.

“One, I think it’s a hot name. And two, Reid is hot.” Gods help her, Reid Redner was hot as Hel. Though the sex was … fine. Standard. She’d gotten off, but she’d really had to work for it. And not in the way she sometimes liked to work for it. More in the sense of Slow down, Put that here, Can we switch positions? But she’d slept with him only twice. And she told herself that it could take time to find the right rhythm with a partner. Even if …

Danika just said it. “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.”

“Fucking Hel, Danika!” Bryce hissed. “Say it a little gods-damn louder.”

The wolves had gone silent. Even their munching had stopped. Then resumed just a decibel too loudly.

“At least he’s got a good job,” Bryce said to Danika, who crossed her slender arms—arms that hid tremendous, ferocious strength—and gave her a look. A look that said, Yeah, one that Reid’s daddy gave him. Bryce added, “And at least he’s not some psychotic alphahole who will demand a three-day sex marathon and then call me his mate, lock me in his house, and never let me out again.” Which was why Reid—human, okay-at-sex Reid—was perfect.

“You could use a three-day sex marathon,” Danika quipped.

“You’re to blame for this, you know.”

Danika waved a hand. “Yeah, yeah. My first and last mistake: setting you two up.”

Danika knew Reid casually through the part-time security work she did for his father’s business—a massive human-owned magi-tech company in the Central Business District. Danika claimed that the work was too boring to bother explaining, but paid well enough that she couldn’t say no. And more than that—it was a job she chose. Not the life she’d been shoved into. So between her patrols and obligations with the Aux, Danika was often at the towering skyscraper in the CBD—pretending she had a shot at a normal life. It was unheard of for any Aux member to have a secondary job—for an Alpha, especially—but Danika made it work.

It didn’t hurt that everyone wanted a piece of Redner Industries these days. Even Micah Domitus was a major investor in its cutting-edge experiments. It was nothing out of the ordinary, when the Governor invested in everything from tech to vineyards to schools, but since Micah was on Sabine’s eternal shit list, pissing off her mother by working for a human company he supported was likely even better for Danika than the sense of free will and generous pay.

Danika and Reid had been in the same presentation one afternoon months ago—exactly when Bryce had been single and complaining constantly about it. Danika had given Bryce’s number to Reid in a last-ditch effort to preserve her sanity.

Bryce smoothed a hand over her dress. “I need to change. Save me a slice.”

“Aren’t you going out for dinner?”

Bryce cringed. “Yeah. To one of those frilly spots—where they give you salmon mousse on a cracker and call it a meal.”

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