House of Earth and Blood - Sarah J. Maas Page 0,1
Even the least powerful of the Vanir—a group that covered every being on Midgard aside from humans and ordinary animals—could be deadly.
“I’ll get it later,” Danika promised, pushing on the hidden panel to spring it open. Bryce had warned her three times now that the showroom supply closet wasn’t her personal locker. Yet Danika always countered that the gallery, located in the heart of the Old Square, was more centrally located than the wolves’ Den over in Moonwood. And that was that.
The supply closet opened, and Danika waved a hand in front of her face. “My gym bag’s stinking up the place?” With a black boot, she toed the sagging duffel that held Bryce’s dance gear, currently wedged between the mop and bucket. “When the fuck did you last wash those clothes?”
Bryce wrinkled her nose at the reek of old shoes and sweaty clothing that wafted out. Right—she’d forgotten to bring home the leotard and tights to wash after a lunchtime class two days ago. Mostly thanks to Danika sending her a video of a heap of mirthroot on their kitchen counter, music already blasting from the beat-up boom box by the windows, along with a command to hurry home quick. Bryce had obeyed. They’d smoked enough that there was a good chance Bryce had still been high yesterday morning when she’d stumbled into work.
There was really no other explanation for why it had taken ten minutes to type out a two-sentence email that day. Letter by letter.
“Never mind that,” Bryce said. “I have a bone to pick with you.”
Danika rearranged the crap in the closet to make space for her own. “I told you I was sorry I ate your leftover noodles. I’ll buy you more tonight.”
“It’s not that, dumbass, though again: fuck you. That was my lunch for today.” Danika chuckled. “This tattoo hurts like Hel,” Bryce complained. “I can’t even lean against my chair.”
Danika countered in a singsong voice, “The artist warned you it’d be sore for a few days.”
“I was so drunk I spelled my name wrong on the waiver. I’d hardly say I was in a good place to understand what ‘sore for a few days’ meant.” Danika, who’d gotten a matching tattoo of the text now scrolling down Bryce’s back, had already healed. One of the benefits to being a full-blooded Vanir: swift recovery time compared to humans—or a half-human like Bryce.
Danika shoved her sword into the mess of the closet. “I promise I’ll help you ice your sore back tonight. Just let me take a shower and I’ll be out of here in ten.”
It wasn’t unusual for her friend to pop into the gallery, especially on Thursdays, when her morning patrol ended just a few blocks away, but she’d never used the full bathroom in the archives downstairs. Bryce motioned to the dirt and grease. “What is that on you?”
Danika scowled, the angular planes of her face scrunching. “I had to break up a fight between a satyr and a nightstalker.” She bared her white teeth at the black substance crusting her hands. “Guess which one spewed its juices onto me.”
Bryce snorted and gestured to the archives door. “Shower’s yours. There are some clean clothes in the bottom drawer of the desk down there.”
Danika’s filthy fingers began pulling the handle of the archives door. Her jaw tightened, the older tattoo on her neck—the horned, grinning wolf that served as the sigil for the Pack of Devils—rippling with tension.
Not from the effort, Bryce realized as she noted Danika’s stiff back. Bryce glanced to the supply closet, which Danika had not bothered to shut. The sword, famed both in this city and far beyond it, leaned against the push broom and mop, its ancient leather scabbard nearly obscured by the full container of gasoline used to fuel the electric generator out back.
Bryce had always wondered why Jesiba bothered with an old-fashioned generator—until the citywide firstlight outage last week. When the power had failed, only the generator had kept the mechanical locks in place during the looting that followed, when creeps had rushed in from the Meat Market, bombarding the gallery’s front door with counterspells to break through the enchantments.
But—Danika ditching the sword in the office. Danika needing to take a shower. Her stiff back.
Bryce asked, “You’ve got a meeting with the City Heads?”
In the five years since they’d met as freshmen at Crescent City University, Bryce could count on one hand the number of times Danika had been called in for a meeting with the