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Bitch Is A Five Letter Word

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Feyre was ready to be home. She was at her studio all day; four new commissions had come in that day and she had a gallery opening next week that still needed a few finishing touches. She was ready for a hot cup of tea and her bed before having to complete a few more tasks to finish off her to-do list.

The sky was already long dark in Velaris, most of its citizens had rushed home hours before when they all got out of their work at a normal time. The wind played through the streets, nipping at Feyre’s cheeks, hinting at the coming fall and the color changes that came with it. No matter the time of year, Velaris was a stunning city but in autumn, the city became washed with red, orange, gold and every color in between. The people instead of starting to resort to dreary winter colors, somehow became more vibrant with coat and scarves and hats rivaling the array of colors you can always find at The Rainbow, Velaris’s artist district where Feyre’s studio was nestled over Elain’s flower shop.

She rounded the corner to an alley short cut that would spit her out a block from her townhome. Weaving around the trashcans and various assortment of junk that people had thrown out that day, Feyre was nearly halfway down the alley when a faint click echoed off the close walls behind her. Instead of freezing, she slowed her pace down a fraction and shifted her weight to her toes. A second later, she spun over her right shoulder, a gunshot narrowing missing her left leg, the bullet now digging into the cement beside her.

“Now I’m sure that your mother taught you to never sneak up on a lady with a gun in a dark alley.” She rebalanced herself, taking in the dark smudge in front of her. A footstep scraped against the ground behind her, a warning that her path was now cut off on both ends.

“You’re right. She taught me to introduce myself first,” the figure conceded. A half step forward brought the shooter into a sliver of light. “I’m Eris Vanserra, one of the leaders in the Hybern gang. Now you can either come quietly or I can take another shot.” The person blocking the other end of the alley chuckled darkly, ready to see her blood spatter.

“Hybern, huh? Never heard of you, must be small-time stuff,” Feyre drawled, unconcerned with his threat of putting a bullet in her.

She could see the asshole tense up; his grip tightened on the gun with a slight tremor. “Well, we’ve certainly heard of you, Feyre Archeron. And your boyfriend the police chief, Rhysand Noctis, too,” Eris gritted out. “He’s been causing a few problems for us lately, disrupting supply lines, picking up our members off the streets, raiding our warehouses and we need him to lay off.”

“The boss thought maybe seeing his pretty, little girlfriend bloody and begging on her knees would be the trick to stop interfering with our business,” came a voice behind her, the second figure finally spoke out.

“And so here you are, ready to steal me away like a thief in the night,” she said. “Well alright, let’s get this over with.”

Feyre bent over to drop her bag on the ground, it was carrying her sketchpad and she didn’t want to have it damaged. Eris’s eyes flashed with brief confusion but decided it was his property to be concerned about.

He tucked the gun back into his waistband, stalked towards her and reached out to grab her arm. Just because she had agreed to come with them, doesn’t mean he still can’t have his fun.

As he was reaching out, Feyre dodged under his arm, brought her foot up and kicked him square in the chest. Eris landed flat on his ass, knocking a trashcan over in the process.

“You. Fucking. Bitch,” he grunted, out of breath from the kick and fall. He snapped his fingers, signaling to his partner to grab her while he got back up.

She allowed the other to approach and sensed his arm coming over her right shoulder. As it crossed into her field of vision, Feyre reached up and grasped his forearm with both hands, bringing it tightly against her chest before he had the chance to wrap it around her neck. She stomped hard against his insole and whipped her head back, his nose letting out an audible crack and spurting blood. She released his arm as he stumbled back, swearing under his breath and choking on the blood running down the back of his throat.

“Looks like the chief managed to find a spitfire, let’s see what it takes to put it out,” Eris growled, back on his feet and ready to put the bitch in her place. Feyre cocked her head, urging him to advance, a grin splitting her face.

He lunged forward, fist swinging for her jaw. Feyre again dodged the obvious attack, countering with a punch to the jaw herself, and then using the momentum to follow up with a kick to the side.

Not willing to be easily winded again, Eris twisted to let the kick glance off his side and captured her leg in his grasp. He yanked Feyre forward, ready to wrap a hand around her neck. She pushed off the ground with her other leg, bringing it up around his head to settle her weight on his shoulder. She wrapped her arm around his neck and brought her elbow down hard on his nose.

Eris released a roar, reaching up and grabbing what he could of her, wrapping his hands around her sweater and hair and threw her down to the ground. Her back and head connected with the ground, stars flashing in and out of her vision, struggling to fill her lungs with the cool night air.

Eris chuckled, spitting blood onto the ground. “Boss told me this was gonna be an easy job.”

“Sorry to disappoint, I don’t like living up to other people’s expectations.” Feyre let out a groan as she rolled over, bracing herself on the ground to push herself up.

“Grab the zip ties,” Eris ordered, clearly done dealing with troublesome women. He stepped closer to where Feyre laid, but he couldn’t see how her mind was racing to figure out her next steps.

When in doubt, go for the dick. Cassian’s voice echoed in her mind. He had been training with her the past two years, building upon her own years of kickboxing and jujutsu, adding in more offensive and defensive moves. He never underestimated her ability but firmly believed that if a bigger opponent was getting the best of her, throw honor away and fight dirty. Walking away was more important than pride.

Before he could get any closer, Feyre flipped back onto her back, tucking her knees to her chest. Eris was directly in front of her, unknowingly perfectly lining up her shot. Before he could realize his error, she shot her legs forward, the slight heel of her boots sinking into the soft flesh of his crotch.

Eris bellowed in pain, doubling over and stumbling backwards until he braced himself against the wall and slid down to sit. Feyre recoiled from her kick, flipping her legs over her head and springing back onto her feet from the backwards somersault. She swiveled on her heels, facing the other assailant, confident that Eris would be down on the ground long enough for her to deal with him.

“Do I get to know your name or are you just Eris’s nameless lackey?” buying her a moment to assess her next opponent.

Blood was still running down from his nose, staining the crooked smile he was giving her. “Cairn, and I’m his fucking brother, cunt.” He saw what she did to Eris and wasn’t ready to receive the same treatment. He approached her cautiously, looking for an opening. She watched him with the same wariness, ready to capitalize on his nerve with being called a lackey to his brother.

He decided to start with a kick, but both he and his brother seemed to lack the common sense of not letting their opponent know what move to expect. Feyre easily stepped out of the path of the kick, catching him off balance and retaliating with a swipe at his legs, sending Cairn crashing to the ground.

“How are both you this dumb to let ‘a pretty, little girl’ get the best of you,” she mocked, the question rhetorical as neither of them were in a position to give her an intelligent answer. Not wanting her leg to be caught again, she kept her kick to his side swift and immediately darted out of the way of any wayward hands.

Eris began to scrabble at the wall behind her, she needed to finish off this brother before the other was back to causing trouble for her. At least he seemed to have forgotten his gun, choosing to want to use his own hands to defeat her.

Needing Cairn out but not dead, she opted for clipping his temple with the edge of her boot when he was struggling to his knees, leaving him to slump forward, face mashed into the ground and ass in the air.

Despite her current predicament, the pose caused a smile to play around the corner of her lips. Oh how the mighty are brought low.

She turned back to Eris, stalking to where he was still struggling to stand up, she watched him scrabble for a second, wondering what move she should use to finish him off. What did he deserve after making her long day even longer and keeping her from her bed? She likely already did permeant damage to any dreams he had at a family, saving some poor girl from having to spend her life with the miserable excuse for a worm in front of her.

“You’ll—” he strained, “you’re gonna fucking, fucking regret fighting back against the inevitable you bitch.”

“You’re not really in the position to talk at the moment. I recommend shutting the fuck up before I go back for round two down there.”

Eris let out an animalistic snarl, fantasizing of all the ways he’s going to make her scream as soon as he can stand the fuck back up. He finally found purchase on the bricks bracing his back and stood slowly, resting a hand on the wall and while the other was reaching for the gun tucked into his waistband. Fuck pride, he would get his revenge on her once she was subdued and tied up back at the compound.

Feyre was not injured so much that she did see how he was going for the gun she thought he would forgo. The back of her head was starting to throb and all she wanted was to be home.

Just as his fingers were grazing the handle, she rushed forward and twisted the arm that was reaching for the gun, twisting it further behind his back. Feyre swung her leg around and kicked the back of his knee, sending Eris careening to the ground again, his knees cracking against the cement and she shoved her body into his so that his head struck the wall that used to be his support.

Blood was now streaming down his temple, but Eris still clung onto consciousness. Not wanting to give him another opportunity to go for his gun, Feyre yanked it from his pants and leveled at his forehead, finger resting lightly on the trigger.

“You don’t have the guts,” he wheezed out, hatred glowing in his black eyes. She might have kicked his ass but he was sure she wouldn’t pull the trigger.

Feyre leaned in to look into his slowly shuttering eyes, “Then you don’t know who you’re dealing with.” Her face was cold. Uncompromising. Inhuman.

Fear finally bloomed in his face, his cheeks draining of color, realizing that his boss didn’t know shit about who he had wanted brought in.

Feyre flipped the gun in her hand and whipped the edge of it against his temple and Eris’s body slumped completely to the ground.

Satisfied that both of her attackers were sufficiently knocked out or could be easily rendered unconscious again, she tucked the gun into her waistband and walked back to her bag. Pulling out her phone, she scrolled to her boyfriends’ name and pressed call.

“Hello, darling,” Rhys answered on the first ring. “Are you home? I promise I’m almost done at the precinct and then I’ll be home to cook dinner.”

Feyre smiled at the sound of his voice. Despite obviously being able to care for her wellbeing, it was nice to have someone to share a life with.

“Not quite yet, I had a bit of a run-in with some of Hyberns’ thugs,” she said lightly, not wanting to scare him. “Could you send a squad car to come pick them up at the alley between 5th and Veritas?”

There was silence on the other side of the line. “Babe?”

“ARE YOU OKAY?” the words came out so loudly, Feyre had to yank the phone away from her ear to avoid permeant hearing damage. “I’M ON MY WAY.”

She could hear doors slamming and the yelling of orders and the stomp of boots coming from the other side of the call. Not wanting to have her eardrum nearly shattered again, she put him on speakerphone and cast an eye over her now captives, not wanting them to give her any surprises.

Hoping to calm Rhys down a bit, she spoke slowly and clearly, “Yes babe, I am completely fine, just a bit bruised up but I knocked both of them out.”

A light huff came through her phone’s speakers. At least he still had enough humor at the moment to realize that his girlfriend is not defenseless. He may have been a cop for eight years and then the chief of the 1st precinct for the past three years but he knew Feyre could even put his well-trained ass on the ground when they spared. “Of course they are.”

Sirens began to blare on his end. “I’ll be there in less than five minutes, think you can manage to keep them under control until we get there?”

“Just exactly how many people are you bringing with you to pick up a few, knocked out, low-level thugs?” she quipped. “And yes, I think I can handle them for a few more minutes,” answering his question before he repeated himself. Rhys is many things that she loves but being a bit of a control freak when he was in chief of police mode was not at the top of her list.

“I’ll see you soon, darling.” He didn’t want to let her go but he needed to focus on making it around the late-night traffic and answering the questions that were coming through his radio.

“Love ya,” Feyre responded. Ending the call and leaning against the side of the alley, finally able to take stock of any damage done to her body and catch the rest of her breath.

Where Eris had slammed her to the ground was sure to start bruising soon but she has had worse over her years of training. What had started as a way to work past the trauma her ex Tamlin had inflicted on her became a fun way to work out and exert any of her life’s frustrations in a healthy manner.

It’s where she met Cassian who saw her beating the shit out of a punching bag and mouthed off to her that she couldn’t take the real thing. A few minutes in the ring later had both of them on their ass, calling the spar a draw and critiquing each other’s techniques along with trading friendly barbs. From there they met bi-weekly, trading moves and pushing each other to see who could end the round the fastest.

Currently Feyre held the record at 26 seconds by using Cassian’s distraction of a scandalous comment to put him flat on his back and pressing her knee into his chest. He claimed she cheated using a literally dirty trick but she threw his words of ‘whatever it takes’ in his face, citing when he used a similar trick when they first started training together.

It was actually the first day that Rhysand had accompanied Cass to the gym. Feyre took one look at the tall, blue-eyed man and knew she would be unable to focus on their sparring session that day. Cass noted her distraction and in the middle of the round commented that Rhys was single and, out of all of his brothers, only had the second biggest dick size. The insinuation from Cass that Rhys would be more than happy to back up the claim caused her to trip midway of her finishing move, giving Cass the perfect opening to put Feyre on her stomach.

The wind had whooshed out of her and she was unable to do anything but lay there for a second, her mind reordering around the comment and the world around her. A tanned hand came into her eye-line, offering a way off the sparing mat with little effort. She wasn’t thinking when she grabbed the hand, thinking it was Cass extending an apology for the trick.

But of course, that wasn’t his style and instead of meeting amber eyes, navy blue ones greeted her as she was effortlessly pulled up.

Rhys’s smile was practically feline, ready to spout some line about Cass not being the only guy being able to put her on her stomach, but the depth of her blue-gray eyes halted the line on the tip of his tongue.

They both stood there staring at each other like idiots until Cass had started harassing them to just get a room or even the alley out the back of the gym. Both had flushed and broke eye contact. Rhys held out a water bottle to her and she accepted it with a soft thanks. That day they parted ways in front of the gym, their phones heavy with each other’s numbers and the anticipation of the coming late-night conversations.

Sirens approaching broke her out of her reminiscing, her mood lifted by the memory of first meeting him and the thought that she was about to see him.

A glance to both sides of alley showed the approaching red and blue flashing lights of patrol cars. And as the vehicles came into view of the narrow ends, accompanied by an ambulance or two, which she hoped was not for her because she was honestly fine.

Chapter Text

“Feyre!” the shout came from the direction she was initially heading in had her turning towards the welcome source. Soon her boyfriend was crushing her in a hug and then scanning for injuries.

“Babe, seriously, I’m fine. It’s those two you should probably be worrying about,” she said with a nod to the still knocked out men. Maybe she had been a bit too harsh with them. But to be fair, they had attacked her first.

“I don’t doubt that you’re okay, but it has been a whole day since I last saw you,” Rhys responded with a sharp grin, happy to have her in his arms after they departed opposite ways this morning.

More cops began to pour into the alley, Rhys switched back into chief mode and began to issue orders for the two men to be taken to the hospital under heavy guard. If they were Hybern’s men, he would either want them back or dead, and as much as they were pieces of shit, they were valuable with information about the gang and their recent rise to the top of the organized crime ladder.

Mor, Rhys’s lieutenant, and Feyre’s best friend, paled at the sight of Eris, but refused to acknowledge him any further. Feyre noted to ask the blonde later if she knew him and what made her look like she’d seen a ghost.

“Remind me to never get on your bad side,” Mor said, opting to focus on the damage she did rather than whom she did them to.

“Nothing they wouldn’t have done to me given the chance,” Feyre responded, adding a smirk to show that there was no damage done to being assaulted on the way home. Velaris was considered to be one of the safest cities in Prythian, but big cities always had their problems.

Feyre reached behind her and carefully brought out the gun she took from Eris, keeping the barrel pointing towards the ground. “You might want this for evidence or something.”

“Damn straight. You look like you’re ready to be home,” Mor said taking the gun from her with a gloved hand and noted the bags underneath Feyre’s eyes and how she began to slouch a bit. “We’ve got it from here, go home you two,” addressing Rhys in a way only a select few can. He would be of no use to the precinct without asking Feyre for all the details of what had happened.

Rhys balked for a moment, torn between wanting to interrogate the men himself and wanting to be home with Feyre, making her tea and dinner and gleaning every bit of information she might have learned from the two assailants. “Sure,” turning to Feyre, “we can go into the precinct tomorrow to get your statement about what happened.”

Feyre looked relieved that she would soon be in the comforts of their townhouse and out of the gathering chill, fall was wanting to make an appearance sooner rather than later. Having a boyfriend that was the chief had its perks, like delaying giving a statement until she was better rested and post ice pack on her head.

He slipped his arm around her shoulders and she leaned into his warmth, grateful for his steady frame. Shooting Mor a tired smile, she said her goodbyes and walked out of the alley, squinting against the glaring, flashing lights.

The pair turned left, weaving around officers and paramedics heading into the alley. People nodded to their chief, not questioning why he was walking away from the scene. They all knew they he had given his orders and everything would be handled. They also knew that he was a complete puppy dog when it came to his girlfriend and that he would want to make sure she was safe away from it all.

They walked in silence to their townhome, Feyre processing the last twenty minutes of her life and Rhys was patiently waiting for her to start telling him what happened.

Soon they reached the two-story, red brick townhome they had moved into a few months ago. At this point, they’ve only been dating for about a year but something felt so right about living in the same space together. Rhys unlocked the outer, wrought iron door followed by the inner dark oak. They stepped into the small foyer, flicking on lights and shutting the door to the incoming chill.

Although Feyre had walked away from the fight relativity unscathed, it was comforting to be safe in her home with her boyfriend who had started to shirk out of his stiff police jacket and loosened the black tie that accompanied it.

Feyre dropped her bag at the foot of the stairs, kicking off her shoes simultaneously and moved further into their home, finding her way into the kitchen by habit and the light from the front. She knew Rhys would soon follow and that he would want to know what happened. But before she relayed her walk home, she wanted an ice pack for her head and tea for her brain.

Feyre grabbed a washcloth from the sink and opened the freezer, scooping a handful of ice into her covered palm. A quick twist of the cloth and she was suppressing a shiver as she eased the ice onto where a lump was sure to be in the morning.

Rhys finally caught up with her having taken off his jacket, tie, shoes and unbuttoned his white shirt. He was quick to nudge her towards the bar stools that bordered the island, grabbing the kettle from the stove and filling it with water to start boiling. Once the water was placed on the burner, he went behind Feyre, replacing her hand with his on the ice pack and planting a kiss on her temple.

“Hi babe,” she sighed, leaning back into his chest, glancing up to him, admiring the silver flecks that sometimes appeared in his midnight eyes.

“Hello, Feyre darling,” his voice rumbling through his chest, the vibrations further relaxing her after the events of the evening.

She inhaled, thinking of where to start. “I know you’ve been dealing with the Hybern gang for a few weeks now, but what made them so bold that they would need me for leverage against you?”

“Leverage? Against me?” the shock transferring from his voice to his face before anger took over. Feyre stayed silent, waiting for him to answer her question.

“The gang is nothing new, they’ve been around since before I left the academy but had small numbers and was barely on our radar. Recently, the old leader mysteriously disappeared and fresh blood took his place. If the rumors are true, it’s said that it’s his son who disposed of his father in a bid more power and to chase the ambition of becoming the powerhouse of Velaris’s underworld.

“Roman Hybern has rapidly been adding to his numbers, elevating some of the most brutal men in his employ to high ranking positions and allowing them sections of the city to terrorize the public and spread our forces thin. So far there’s been no casualties, only roughed up store owners and anyone unfortunate to run into them at night.” With that, she gave an appreciative snort, proud of her ability to avoid being another one of their victims. A glance up at Rhys saw pride shining in his eyes, knowing that he was dating a woman that could kick anyone’s ass across the country.

He continued, the pride fading and brow creasing into worry. “Last week, there was a robbery at a warehouse. When we arrived on scene, we assumed that they would be after the weapons that were being stored there for the military until they could be shipped out. But the crates were untouched, instead, about 2.5 million dollars’ worth of high-grade lab equipment was gone. The gang had a history of only pushing the basics: marijuana, LSD, MDMA, narcotics if they stumbled across it and the odd or end kilo of cocaine. We think they might be trying to expand their share in the market.

“We’ve been working to try to get more intel on them, but anyone we send in undercover are completely turned away, as if they already know who they are. Which is better than them going missing or turning up dead, I suppose.”

The kettle started whistling at this point, Feyre replaced his hand on the ice pack as he moved to grab her favorite tea and mug from the cabinet beside the stove. Rhys turned off the burner and poured the boiling water into the cup.

The ice had started to melt, and her head was starting to feel better, so she tossed the cloth into the sink. She accepted the tea with a kiss, wrapping her slightly aching hands around the warmth. Eris was thick-headed in more ways than one.

Both stayed silent for a minute, soaking up the information and their minds turning over what could come next in Romans’ plans.

“We’ve been doing the best we can against them, following key members to their warehouses and picking up anyone we think might give us more information to the inner workings of the gang. Not that they’ve been of any help,” Rhys growled. “Most are too afraid to say anything, fearing for their life or those close to them. Roman quickly earned a reputation for swift brutality for anyone who talked.

“At best we’ve been doing damage control, cleaning up their aftermath and the mayor is getting more and more unhappy with our lack of progress against them. I’ve been managing to get a bit closer to where we think their main base of operations is and I guess that’s why they came after you tonight,” he said, mouth tightening and turning down.

Feyre squeezed his hand, reassuring him that she was in one piece, both body and mind. If something like this had happened back when she was dating Tamlin, she wouldn’t have been able to defend herself at all against the attackers. Tamlin made sure that she was always either by his side, or the rare times she was out on her own, had a driver and bodyguard in her shadow.

He wanted her subdued, demure, something pretty on his arm. When she finally dared to leave him, there was no fight. She disappeared to avoid the temper he so easily turned on her and was left with the mental aftermath of her five-year abusive relationship.

Since then, she toughed up not only her body, but her mind, knowing that no one could protect it but herself. Rhys loved and supported her in every way, but she knew that she must be able to rely on her own mental strength before anyone else’s.

After a few bracing sips of tea and some steadying breaths, she began to relay her walk home to him. He smiled at her wittiness and quick thinking, scowled at when she was slammed to the ground or insulted. The duo hadn’t given her much information in way of Hyberns’ plans, just some unimaginative insults and the fact that the gang wanted the police off their backs.

She watched Rhys’s reactions and how he lapsed into silence after she’d finished. The fact that he wasn’t asking questions concerned her, he loved Velaris and took the safety of its inhabitants seriously.

He worked long hours, sometimes sleeping at the precinct if a particularly hard case was weighing on his mind. She was familiar with waking up alone on those days and taking breakfast to him when she knew he most likely skipped dinner the night before. He would greet her in his office, shirt and hair rumpled and dark circles under his eyes. She would smile, give him a kiss and leave him to his work.

Him not asking questions meant he was taking on the responsibility of the attack and letting the weight settle on his shoulders. Which also meant that he would want some preemptive measure for next time, if Hybern was bold enough to go after her again.

“If you’re thinking of assigning a police escort to me, you can sleep on the couch in your office tonight.”

He glanced up in surprise that she could guess the thought that was lingering on the edge of his consciousness. He knew of her past relationship with her piece of shit ex and would never want to constrain her like that, but she was being specifically targeted by the head of a new, powerful enemy.

Rhys knew better with than to argue with her on it, but what if they brought more men next time? What if she didn’t hear them approaching? What if they decided to send a stronger message and start to stain their hands with blood?

With each question crossing his mind, the tight knot in his stomach that started after her phone call grew tighter until it felt like he couldn’t breathe. He and Feyre had only been together a year but he knew that he didn’t want to live the rest of his life without her. And if she was hurt or… died… because a gang leader wanted him to lay off, he didn’t know how he would live with himself.

Feyre saw how deep and fast he was spiraling and slid off her stool to stand in front of him. She gripped his chin and forced him to look her in the eye. They just stood there, somehow taking in the whole world and not acknowledging it. They studied each other, accepting that both are stubborn but not willing to admit it.

They wrapped their arms around each other and just let the world spin on for a bit without them.

“We’ll figure something out,” Rhys sighed into her hair.

“Tomorrow. At the precinct,” she agreed.

“Dinner?”

“Pizza.”

Rhys let out a surprised laugh. It was his turn to cook tonight but after the fight Feyre went through, if she wanted pizza, she would get pizza.

“Meat lovers, mushroom on half?”

“You know it, babe.” She went to the living room to throw on something mindless while he called up their favorite hole-in-the-wall. He joined her on the couch, pulling her to him and tucking their favorite blanket around them.

“Cass and Amren got into it today,” Rhys grumped.

He and Cass had been raised together, they fought and loved like brothers, alongside Azriel who had always been the quiet rock of their trio. Being able to work with his adoptive brothers was a privilege, and a headache.

Cass was his sergeant, mainly training and supervising his officers, while Az decided to stay a detective, doing his best work from the shadows of his friends and brothers.

Amren was his captain. His second in command. And Cass’s favorite person to get into it with.

“They had a disagreement on the fastest way to disassemble their guns. Which of course led to them abandoning their desks for a contest in the briefing room. Which then lead to the whole department going to the briefing room to see who would get their ass handed to them.” Although Rhys was complaining about the complete halt of work, Feyre could hear the smile in his voice.

“Let me guess, Mor bet on Cass and Az bet on Amren,” she surmised.

“Yup. And that lead to the department being split in half, I fear the rift may never heal,” he chuckled.

“Who did you bet on?”

“A chief never takes sides.”

“Bullshit.”

“I bet on Amren.”

“Of course you did.”

“And who won?”

“Amren.”

“Of course she did!” Feyre barked out, her laughs vibrating into his body, helping ease the knot in his stomach. Even after being nearly shot and beaten, she could still laugh about his friends’ antics and fuckery.

He pressed a kiss into her temple, just happy to be here in their home and hear her laugh about his day.

“And how are things at your studio?”

Feyre groaned, “I would rather take on the two idiots from tonight again than deal with one of my clients. I’ve been working on that landscape piece for her for weeks but every time I make her adjustments, something else bothers her about it.” She stretched, turning more onto her back so that her head rested against his chest instead of his shoulder.

“’Make it more abstract. But not too many bright colors, but not so dreary. No, that’s too abstract, add a bit more definition into the foreground, but I don’t want to lose sight of the background.’ It’s just never-ending.

“She’s lucky it’s for my favorite bakery. And it helps that she paid a butt-ton of money upfront and will pay even more once she decides it’s done. I’m hoping that the adjustments I made today will be the end of it so I can get her off my plate before the gallery opens next week.”

Rhys hummed sympathetically; he didn’t have an artistic bone in his body but knew the struggles of dealing with picky people. His old captain, Devlon, was never satisfied with his reports. They were always too long or too short, too detailed or too broad. Rhys, Cass, and Az went and got blind drunk in celebration the day that he got transferred to the 3rd precinct, forever out of their hair.

Feyre seemed lost in thought, brow creased over her troublesome client, but there was nothing he could do than just let her vent. They stayed in comfortable silence, half paying attention to the show as the characters ran around trying to put on a concert for kids.

The doorbell rang, clanging through the first floor and Feyre’s stomach gave out an answering growl.

Another laugh escaped their chests as Rhys got up and snagged the pizza from the delivery man. He swung by the kitchen for plates, napkins, and beer and soon both had their mouths full of greasy, cheesy goodness, much needed after a long day.

Chapter Text

The world was dim, tinged with red around the edges. She was warm, but there was a weight pressing down on her. It was familiar and comforting rather than strange and unwelcome. Feyre pushed through the dim light, swimming through her unconscious mind to meet the new day only to be greeted by her boyfriend pinning her down to the bed.

Rhys was gently nibbling up and down her neck, tracing the well-known path from her ear to her collarbone, one she hoped he would never tire of following. She sighed and stretched underneath him, arching slightly into his lean frame.

“Good morning, Feyre darling,” he murmured into her ear on one of his passes.

She smiled, closing her eyes again to keep them in this moment and slid her hands into his mussed-up hair.

His hands wandered lower, following the lines of her body until they hooked around the edges of her underwear.

Last night, Feyre was too exhausted to do little more than brush her teeth, kick off her jeans and pull on a well-worn shirt that might’ve been Rhys’s at some point. She was completely out by the time he came upstairs and got into bed.

Now he was making up for lost time, pressing kisses down her thigh following her underwear until they disappeared under the sheets. He slid his hands back up under her shirt, thumbs skirting around her nipples, gently teasing them into attention.

Feyre released a breathy moan, pressing her legs together for any friction she could get since Rhys seemed to be content to only play with her.

“Not so fast, after last night, all you need to do it relax and just let me take care of you,” he whispered against her skin, forcing her legs apart to settle between them. Feyre let out a whimper, wanting to pull him back up to continue his treatment of her neck. To taste him on her lips while he entered her.

Her nails scraped along his shoulders and scalp, begging him to come back up and give her what she wanted.

“Ah, ah, ah darling, keep acting like that and I’ll have to tie you up,” he chuckled, breath fanning over her entrance. Feyre moved to grab the pillow above her head, biting her lip to keep a retort from leaving them. The sooner she complied to his demands, the sooner he would give her what she wanted.

Satisfied that Rhys could work without the distraction of her hands, he turned to the wetness in front of his nose. He licked a long stripe up her core and circled her clit with his lips. Gently sucking on it caused Feyre to buck into his mouth, moaning for him to pick up the pace.

Rhys was in no hurry; he had woken up before his alarm and had taken one look at Feyre’s sleeping form before deciding to wake her up himself. He repeated his pattern of tracing long lines up her slit, each time probing a bit deep into her depths.

Feyre fisted her hands into the pillow, biting hard into her lower lip to keep from screaming out her frustration at him. Her head was sore from the fight last night but its throbbing sensation was dulled as her world pinpointed to where his tongue was.

She lost the battle of crying out when he suddenly sank a finger deep inside of her accompanied by his teeth gently scrapping against her sensitive clit. Feyre arched hard into his mouth and hand, so close to her release.

Rhys could feel her walls clenching around his finger and withdrew it completely, his lips also leaving its duties at the apex of her thighs. “Not so fast, I don’t want you rushing through my playtime.” Rhys brought his finger to her mouth, tracing her lips, her tongue slipping out to taste herself and how wet he made her.

She whined in the back of her throat as he turned to running his hands up and down her calves, so far from where she wanted them. His lips were lazily kissing the inside of her the soft flesh of her thighs, allowing her to back off the edge of her climax.

Once she stopped moving beneath him and her breathing calmed, he returned to his prior attentions.

Without warning, he pushed his index and middle finger into her, his thumb pressing down on her clit. Feyre arched off the bed at that, begging for him to continue, begging for him to allow her to come.

Rhys’s midnight blue eyes guttered with desire, seeing what he could do to her with one hand practically tied behind his back. He removed his thumb and replaced it with the flat of his tongue, swirling the tip around her hood.

She whined in earnest, wondering what she did do to deserve his wicked treatment so early in the day.

Since Feyre had followed his commands to keep her hands to herself, he decided that she earned the right to tip over the cliff edge he was making her walk.

Keeping his one hand moving inside of her, curling his fingers every time he moved them out, he reached up with his other hand to palm her breast, brushing his thumb over the erect nipple.

Soon lightning shot down Feyre’s spine as her release barreled through her. She screamed his name, the sound and taste of her alone nearly bringing him to his own edge.

For a moment, they both lay there breathing, soaking in the afterglow of her orgasm. Rhys slid back up her body to cage her in with his arms, she could feel how hard he was through his thin pajama bottoms.

Feyre attempted to work a hand between them, determined to not let him go until she felt him inside of her.

Rhys only pressed down more on her body, effectively stopping any advances. He knew that if she got a hold of him, they would both be late leaving their home.

He crushed her mouth to his as an apology for stopping their morning fun and hopped out of bed to jump into the shower.

Feyre swiped at his retreating ass, not wanting to let him go yet even though he was being the responsible one. They both needed to start their day. Besides, if she was fast enough, she could catch him in the shower before he thought to lock the door.


Feyre and Rhys arrived at Velaris Precinct 1 a bit after 8 in the morning. It was an old building, almost 250 years at this point. Not only did the current station had a rich history but the land that it rested on did too. It was built upon the burned down remains of the old police station, which was built upon the remains of barracks that used to house the city’s militia.

Velaris itself was almost 5,000 years old. Founded by those who saw the corruption of the continent and Prythian, those who wanted a haven for artists and architects, fishers and farmers. The outskirts of the old city were ringed by remains of the wall that used to protect the city, now reduced to crumbling stones that were marked by heritage sites and were visited by school groups.

As all cities do, Velaris had expanded far past its old boundaries. Sprawling suburbs and tightly packed condos created pockets and swathes of wealth and poverty. Although the founders sought to escape the darkness of man, it followed them eventually, like a shadow reappearing in the light of dawn.

The police did their best keeping the city safe, but they cannot be everywhere, prevent everything. Gangs rose and fell from power, the seedy underbelly constantly changing, neither growing nor shrinking.

Rhys got his start in the 1st precinct; him, Cass, Az and Mor all graduated from college and enrolled into academy together. Six months later, it spat them out and had them working long hours. Late nights as beat cops exposed them to all walks of life. Rhys and Mor grew up in wealthy homes, their families of old money with expectations that their careers would be those of socialites, not society’s servants. Cassian was taken in first by the Noctis’s, followed by Azriel a year later.

The adoptive brothers gave them connections to life outside of money, but nothing prepared any of them to the brutality of humanity. After a long shift, sometimes there was nothing they could do but go home and sit in silence with each other, grateful for the bonds they had.

Rhys, Mor, and Cass decided to climb the department ladder, working harder than their colleagues so that they could be in a position to keep Velaris’s citizens safe from corruption and terror. Az took the route of detective, his friends swearing up and down he had the ability to blend into the shadows and from there learned everything about his case subjects.

Three years ago, their old chief of police stepped down and the city council put Rhys in his place. Some said that it was because his family was one of the most influential in the city. Rhys knew that his background helped him get the position, but that didn’t stop him from exceeding his duties and earning every bit of respect that followed the title “Chief”.

And so, there he was three years later, walking hand in hand with Feyre into his precinct, greeting every officer by name, ready to start the day by getting a handle on Hybern’s play for her.

“Good morning, Chief,” Mor quipped, “and good morning, Queen Kickass,” with a smile to Feyre. “You ready to give your statement?” Mor was his lieutenant, in charge of taking Rhys’s and Amren’s will and making it happen in the department.

“Yes,” she responded, but she remembered the look on Mor’s face last night when she saw Eris. Hopefully, she can get Mor to focus more on how easy it was to put them on the ground rather than who she was putting there.

“Chief,” a cold voice cut through the morning chatter of the room. Rhys turned towards his captain, Amren. “I have an update on the Hybern men Feyre put in the hospital last night,” she said with an approving nod towards her.

“Let’s go to my office,” Rhys led the way for the four of them, closing the door behind him.

He sat in his chair behind the large, oak desk littered with reports and personal effects.

“Eris Vanserra has a mild concussion with moderate bruising on the jaw and chest, he’s expected to make a full recovery.” Disappointment flashed on Mor’s face but disappeared quickly enough that Feyre wondered if she was imagining things. “Cairn Vanserra has only mild bruising on his abdomen, no head trauma despite being knocked out, but that’s to be credited to him taking on a skilled fighter.”

“Have they decided to cooperate with us?” Rhys tried to hide the hope in his voice, he needed a crack in the case and a high-ranking informant would be the perfect breakthrough.

“No, Eris and his brother are staying tight-lipped. We know Hybern is serious about keeping everything under wraps and that seems to even scare Eris who’s one of his top people.”

Rhys grimaced, it was going to be another long day of weeding information out of whoever they could.

Amren continued, “Last night, another warehouse was broken into.” All eyes shot to look at her. “No medical equipment this time but Hyberns’ men stole pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Again, nothing used in the normal drug-making process.”

All brows in the room creased, each in deep thought over what he was after.

Mor spoke up first, “Is it possible that he’s trying his hand at biological warfare?” Feyre’s cheeks paled a bit at that. Drugs could be contained but a full outbreak in their city could bring death to every doorstep.

“Is it possible,” Rhys said slowly, “I’ll send a full report to our lab team to see if they have any guesses. I also have a friend that has consulted for us a few times and owes me a favor, I’ll send it to him too.”

Amren gave a short nod at this, “Then there’s nothing else to report at this time, Chief.”

He heaved a sigh and waved his hand, a silent dismissal. Amren opened the door and left without any further remarks. Mor followed suit, amber eyes flickering to Feyre as she lingered.

Feyre rounded the desk and perched on his side. She reached over to him and lightly ran her fingers through his neatly styled hair and down the side of his face.

Rhys briefly closed his eyes, enjoying his girlfriends’ comfort before steeling himself for the work ahead.

Sensing his mood had lifted slightly, Feyre left the office with a brush of her lips on his cheek and went to go find Mor.

Feyre wove through the desks of the precinct to where Mor’s desk was tucked in a corner near the briefing room, there she could look out across the office to mitigate any problems that might arise.

“Want me to give my statement here or in the interrogation room?” dropping her voice a bit at the end to give the question a false sense of seriousness.

Mor snorted, “We have to keep things official so it’ll have to be the interrogation room. Let’s go grab Az and we can get started, I’m sure you want to get to your studio.”

The pair set off to grab the detective that was lurking near the bullpen hoping to overhear any helpful news from off the streets.

He silently fell into step with the two as they entered the hallway that held a handful of interrogation rooms. They entered the first one on the left, Feyre taking a seat in the cold chair on one side of the table while the other two settled down opposite to her.

“How are you after last night?” Az’s cool voice questioned, he looked passive but his eyes held real concern, even though she was the one to walk away relatively unscathed.

“A few bumps and bruises but nothing worse than the time you put me on my ass in the ring.” She and him had sparred only once and she hasn’t had the patience to do it again. Az had accompanied Cass to one of their sparring days and Feyre managed to get him in the ring with her.

She knew she was fast, one of her advantages over Cassian, but Az seemed to move in and out of shadows. As soon as the fight had started, he was behind her, pinning her arms to where she couldn’t budge. Feyre had nearly ripped her arms out of her sockets trying to and escape him. Again and again, round after round and every time he was faster and smarter until she was sweaty, bruised and face down on the floor not willing to get up again.

Az let out a low huff at their shared memory, he knew she was still frustrated by his sparring ability but it hadn’t affected their friendship.

“State your full name for the record.”

“Feyre Lorraine Archeron.”

“Wait what?” Mor pulled up short in surprise, “That sounds like something my great-aunt whatever would be named.”

“It was after my great-aunt whatever,” Feyre mumbled, “my mother had the brilliant idea to keep it a family name.”

“Oh, sorry. Back on track, please recount in as much detail about the events of last night, Wednesday, October 3rd.”

For the second time in 24 hours, Feyre laid out the fight in the alleyway, except with more interruptions, this time for Azriel.

What were they wearing? Were they like street clothes or of finer quality? Did she see anyone following her the past few days, if so, what did they look like? What direction did they come from? Has she gotten any odd emails or text messages from people that might have been posing as potential clients?

She answered each one the best she could. Throughout it all, Feyre kept glancing at Mor to gauge her reactions. She had stayed mostly silent, allowing Az to ask the questions, opting to take notes instead with her eyes downcast.

Once Az had seemed to run out of questions, he picked up on the tension between the two women and excused himself to type up her statement and answers.

After the door had snicked shut behind him, Mor let out a long breath, her usually lively brown eyes muted.

“Eris and I have known each other all our lives.”

Feyre fought to keep the shock off her face. How did Mor have such close ties to someone that was now working for Hybern? Rhys had to know about this.

“His parents and mine knew each other from the country club. Brunch on Sundays, the pool during the summer, tennis lessons, we saw each other there often.” But not by choice, she left hanging in the air.

“I don’t remember much about what he was like when he was really young but the older he got, the worse he became. Pinching me under the table at meals, holding me under the water a bit too long for children to be playing, a stray ball hit too precisely in my direction. I begged my parents to leave me at home with the staff, promising that I would stay in my room and read, but they always dragged me kicking and screaming out of there anyways.

“My parents are old fashioned, they had a vision for the two of us, a marriage of wealth and genetics to strengthen our family pedigree. And Eris fit the bill perfectly. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I was finally able to fight back and managed to stay away from him.”

She let out another long breath, this one shaky and rough with suppressed tears.

“Hey,” Feyre closed the space from across the table, grabbing one of Mor’s hands in both of hers, “you don’t have to go any farther.”

Mor gave a small shake of her head and gave Feyre’s hands a weak squeeze.

“I came back from my first year at college, the happiest I had been in a long time. Now that I was out of my parents’ house, I was able to be who I really was. Prythian U was when I met Andromache, my first girlfriend. She was in my intro to law class and had the most beautiful, untamed curls.” A smile at the distant memory that faded quickly.

“My high school friends invited me to a party at one of their houses. They promised it would just be a small kickback with close friends. I don’t know why I believed them.

“The only way I was able to stand to be around them was with a few drinks in me, they were just so… shallow, but I needed a night away from my parents. That’s when he showed up.” A few tears had managed to escape and she wiped them away harshly, frustrated that it had been over a decade and it still twisted her gut every time.

“I hadn’t seen Eris since I had managed to stop going to the country club, since then, he had grown several more inches, his lanky frame now bulky with bands of muscle. Of course, every girl at that party decided to throw themselves in his path, but he stayed my shadow the whole night, pressing me to talk to him and catch up.

“I texted Rhys as soon as I could to come pick me up, there was no way I could drive that night. I guess I turned away from my drink for a moment because the next thing I knew my vision was getting foggy and it was getting harder and harder to stand up. Eris lead me to an upstairs bedroom, claiming to everyone that the ‘little missy’ couldn’t handle her alcohol and he was going to help me lie down. What a fucking lie that was but everyone was too wrapped around his finger to notice.

“I don’t remember much about what happened next, but Rhys told me that when he burst into the room, my pants and underwear were off, and Eris was on top of me. God, I thought he wasn’t going to walk out alive but Rhys wanted to get me out of there as fast as possible. He begged me to go to the police, but I knew it was impossible. Underage drinking combined with a rich white boy? Who would’ve believed me?”

Feyre’s eyes snapped cold blue at that. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be raised in a privileged household that wouldn’t back up their own daughter.

Mor’s eyes came back into focus. “That was the last time I saw him since last night. I swear if I had shown up and you were the one going into the ambulance instead of him, I don’t think anyone could have stopped me from killing him.”

Mor lifter her eyes from where she had fixed them on a distant point to meet Feyre’s, “I’m so sorry that he hurt you. Maybe if I had said something all those years ago, you would be safe.”

“Don’t you dare,” the words came out as a whisper. “Don’t you dare blame the actions of that shitbag on you. I’m so, so terribly sorry that you went through that Mor, and thank you for trusting me with it. If you ever want, or need, to talk about it or anything else, you know I’m here.” She finished her proclamation with a hard squeeze, trying to convey even more love in the gesture.

“I know Feyre, I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Chapter Text

Mor had recovered enough to leave the interrogation room with Feyre, the latter insisting that she could run and get her friend some tissues. Mor was grateful but assured her it was unnecessary. She had enough practice of shaking off her dark past and returning to her usual happy self.

Feyre knew what was coming next and would need some of Mor’s tenacity to help her get through it. When the pair emerged from the hallway into the main room of the precinct, Cassian and Azriel got to their feet to join them in Rhys’s office where Amren already was.

It was a bit crowded in the small room so Feyre opted to perch on the desk beside Rhys’s chair, Amren remained standing, Mor and Cass took the couch while Az leaned against the windowsill.

Rhys took a deep breath, hoping to carefully navigate the coming conversation but Cass decided to open his big, fat mouth.

“I think you need a security detail with you when you’re not with us. If not one of our officers, maybe someone from a private company, Rhys can afford it.”

Feyre looked ready to snap at Cass but Mor interceded for her with a sharp slap to the back of his head.

“Ow, fucking hell, Mor,” he grumbled rubbing the tender spot.

“I am not being followed 24/7 by some goon when you all know I can damn well protect myself,” she crossed her arms. “Case in point, last night.” Her eyes pinned Cass to his spot, the fire in them prevented him from objecting.

“Let’s think this through,” Amren’s cool voice cut through the rising tensions.

They fell into silence, each trying to come up with a solution that wouldn’t involve Feyre biting their heads off. They all knew what her piece of shit ex did to her, locking her up and only letting her out when he said so and surrounded by a guard.

Granted, Feyre did know how to protect herself. Everyone in the room has gone toe to toe with her and only Az was undefeated. She was a natural borne fighter, through and through.

But natural fighting ability was nothing when a gunshot could end Feyre’s life when she least expected it.

Being on the force for over a decade meant that they’ve seen every manner of murder involving guns. From the unpredictable accidents that happened in quiet suburbs to violence between rival gangs, everyone bleeds the same shade of red.

Feyre was the first to break the silence. “I’ll stay on all the major streets, no more shortcuts.”

Everyone but Rhys murmured their approval. She turned to him with an expectant eyebrow raised.

He sighed, knowing he was outnumbered. It wasn’t that he hated the idea, it was actually a good start. Hybern was sticking to smaller, less populated areas and her staying on busy streets would provide a fair amount of cover and protection.

Rhys nodded, rubbing small circles on her back to let her know that he was not happy about the idea but also not totally against it.

“Would you be ok with being home or with one of us before dark?” Az asked.

Feyre paused, considering.

“At least until we get a better handle on Hybern,” he amended.

“And how long would that take?”

Az broke eye contact at that, biting his lip in an uncharacteristic show of uncertainty. Rhys knew that Az was trying his hardest to break into the gang and gain an inside informant, but every day was the same failure. The losses were beginning to weigh on his detectives’ mind.

“We’re not sure.”

It was Feyre’s turn to sigh, she knew she wasn’t going to walk out of this room completely in control of her life. It was already bad enough that a new, dangerous gang leader was targeting her, but she didn’t want to lose her hard-earned freedom.

“Fine.”

The tension melted from the room; a compromise has been reached. Feyre and Rhys both looked unhappy, but they could both swallow it. Az needed to get a handle on Hybern faster, his mind already spinning with new ideas to try and infiltrate them.

Feyre and Rhys had begun a staring contest, silently communicating in a way only they could. The rest took that as their signal to leave, giving the couple time to adjust to the new dynamic in their relationship.

The door swung closed, cutting off Mors’ worried glance.

They stayed assessing each other for a few moments, gauging the various emotions running through their faces. Rhys broke eye contact and circled his hands around her waist, pulling her lean frame into his lap. She settled into his arms, the various pins on his jacket slightly jabbing into her side. Feyre didn’t mind if it meant she got to steal a few more moments of his day from him.

Seconds ticked by, reminding them that the world continued outside of the small room.

“I know you are not him.”

Rhys shuddered at her declaration, pressing his cheek into her temple, arms tightening around her. Even her telling him that he was not Tamlin, the heavy feeling in his gut refused to dissipate.

Feyre was such a bright light in his life and he couldn’t imagine anything or anyone being able to snuff it out. It killed him to think that someone nearly did, in her past and last night.

“I know you’re not happy with this plan,” his voicing dropping to just above a whisper, “but it’s just until we can get a handle on Hybern.”

She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to press down the memories that were threatening to break the surface of her consciousness. Memories of an angry voice barring her from the outside world. She released a slow breath, reminding herself that she is still free, but there are too many people that she loves in her life to endanger herself needlessly.

“I understand. I love you.”

“I love you too.” Rhys pressed a bruising kiss to her lips, trying to pour all of his love and understanding into it. Feyre returned the kiss with equal intensity but broke it off too early, he groaned at the loss of her lips.

“Remember that there is a whole precinct of officers out there,” she teasingly, her breath still minty from this morning, brushing his cheek. He grumbled, wishing that he could send them all away.

Feyre gracefully untangled herself from his arms and got to her feet, placing a final peck on his lips.

Rhys followed her lips until he was halfway out of his chair when at that point, she placed a hand on his chest and shoved him to sit back down. Feyre threw a gently chastising look his way as she gathered her bag and swept out of the office, off to start her day at the studio.

Rhys watched as she wove through the desks, tossing casual goodbyes to her friends on her way out.

He shook his head, knowing that what she could do to his body would be the death of him.

 

Rhys flicked his wrist, tossing the ball high into the air so that it barely grazed the ceiling.

Over and over.

His mind was in a far place, playing and replaying a night from over a decade ago. No matter how long it has been, the anger never faded. He could so clearly see a passed out Mor underneath a half-naked Eris, him so close to doing irreparable damage to his bright, bubbly cousin.

How Rhys left that room with Eris still alive is unknown to him. His vision was blurred red and his blood sang with the promise of violence. He knew he needed to get Mor out of there so all the satisfaction he could get was throwing Eris halfway across the room to slam into the wall hard enough to leave a dent.

He caught the ball and squeezed hard, trying to stomp down the thrum of hatred that was building up in his chest. He knew what he needed to do.

Rhys stood from his desk and delicately set down the ball to prevent him from sending it through the window that overlooked the street below. As he strode to the door, he tugged the edges of his jacket to straighten out any wrinkles and slipped on the mask of imposing police chief.

“Detective Noctis,” he said approaching his adoptive brothers’ desk, “I need you to come to the hospital with me to question the Vanserra brothers.” Their names were like poison in his mouth.

Az’s usually impassive face hardened to a level below frigid, his amber eyes snapping with disgust. Mor trusted him with the information of that night years after it happened. She knew that if Az or Cass had learned sooner, they would have hunted him down and gotten themselves in more trouble than their family could dig them out of.

“I want to go with you,” a determined voice came from behind him, he turned to see his blonde lieutenant standing in a wide stance with her arms crossed. Mor was unwilling to back down and be told to stay at the precinct.

“I’ve known him the longest, he might be willing to talk to me,” she added.

Rhys and Az forced themselves to not share a look. Mor was strong, maybe stronger than anyone Rhys knew but they still worried about her facing her past attacker.

“Ok, you and Az will go.”

Az looked to his chief and then to her, dipping his head in the slightest of nods. He got up from his desk, “I’ll drive.”

Mor returned his nod and started for the door.

Before Az could follow, Rhys lightly touched his shoulder. “Watch out for her,” and removed his hand.

Az’s shoulders pulled back slightly, his posture a bit taller, ready to protect his friend. His long strides had him at her side in seconds and took the lead, guiding her to his patrol car.

Instead of the bulky SUVs that the other officers drove, Az’s detective position afforded him a nondescript, black Dodge Charger. Fast and easy to maneuver in a city, it allowed him to follow his suspects without drawing too much attention.

Soon the pair was counting down the blocks to the public hospital where the Vanserra brothers were being held under heavy guard. As soon as they got the green light from the attending doctors, they would be moved to Ghost Isle Maximum Security Prison.

Just of the north coast of Velaris, a sentence to The Prison was a good as death. Most that walked into there didn’t walk back out, not in this lifetime. It was not normal procedure for assault, but the brothers were too valuable to be kept in the minimum-security jail that was just outside the city limits.

Rhys wasn’t sure what connections Hybern had or how high they went but he didn’t want to take any chances at losing what could be a turning point in getting a handle on the gang.

Mor had stayed silent the whole ride, Az unwilling to push her into a conversation, letting her prepare to see her old tormentor in whatever way she needed.

She was the first out of the car as soon as he parked but stood rooted in place, staring at the entrance.

Az took his place at her side, letting her decide when to move forward. Mor released a slow exhale and forced herself to walk forward, not allowing her steps to falter.

He followed a half step behind, ready to back her up no matter what was about to transpire.

They flashed their badges at the front desk, an older nurse scrutinizing them before leading them through the maze of halls and alcoves to where the perpetrators were being treated.

Three officers from the department were stationed with them, one each inside the rooms that faced each other and one in the hallway.

Officer Alvaro snapped a crisp salute to his superiors before returning to the paperwork he had on his lap.

“Any trouble?”

“None, sir. They have both been quiet, hardly even answering the doctor’s questions. No visitors either, other than the nurses that make their rounds.”

“Thank you.”

Az turned to Mor at this point, “Which one would you like to start with?”

“Cairn.”

Officer Alvaro pointed the pair to the door on the left side of the hall. Mor entered first, her spine stiff and her face calm.

“Officer Haywood, we have a few questions for Mr. Vanserra here, why don’t you go get yourself a cup of coffee?” Az offered.

The officer nodded and took the clipboard she was writing on. The heavy door swung shut behind her and low voices followed by retreating footsteps echoed down the hall.

Az turned his eyes on the man handcuffed to the bed. He was restrained at the hands and ankles with straps that were usually reserved for psych patients, but I guess he had to be some type of crazy to try and take Feyre without a fight.

Like his brother, Cairn Vanserra had auburn hair cropped close to his head and amber eyes, but he was less bulky than his brother, leaner and wirier in his build. Cairn eyed the detective and lieutenant, some color draining out of his tanned cheeks at the ice he saw in their faces.

“How do you feel, Mr. Vanserra?” Az started politely, no sense in getting him riled up.

Cairn pressed his lips together and broke eye contact, opting to stare at the closed blinds.

“Oh, come now, I just want to make sure the doctors are treating you with respect and the nurses aren’t forgetting any meals. You may have made a very stupid move but that’s no reason for you not to be treated like an adult. Only if you stop sulking like a teenager, however.”

A small grin flickered at the corner of Cairn’s mouth. Az sometimes got his information by stone-cold manners and dry humor, rather than force and pain.

“Food is what you expect from a hospital, but the nurses make up for it a bit by being a nice piece of eye candy,” Az forced himself not to frown at objectification. “Doc says that there’s no permanent damage, no thanks to that crazy bitch from last night.”

“That crazy bitch is my friend, and put you spectacularly on your ass last night, I would be careful what you say about her,” Mor hissed, her patience was already low with him but his crude way of talking wore it down more.

Cairn barred his teeth at the reminder that he was thoroughly beaten, “She caught me off guard is all, the boss told me it was gonna be an easy snatch and grab.”

“Your boss clearly didn’t do his homework,” Az countered, “Speaking of, how is Hybern these days? Word is he doesn’t like how close we’re getting.”

At that, Cairn fully paled and turned his eyes to the blanket covering him. “You know he’ll kill me if I say anything.”

“And what if we could protect you? Get you somewhere he can’t find you?”

“Impossible, he has contacts all over the city,” he winced, realizing that he gave away too much information already. “Plus… he knows where my little girl lives,” he added in quiet horror, wondering what would happen to her if Hybern ever found out that he was talking this much.

“Ah you underestimate us, Mr. Vanserra. Chief Noctis has his own contacts and can verify that you and your daughter would be safe.” Az was willing to give this much away, it wasn’t a secret that Rhys had connections and power, everyone in the city had heard of his family.

Mor remained silent, letting Az lead the conversation. She had only ever seen Cairn in passing, he was usually too young for his older brother to bother with him.

Cairn looked like he was considering taking the offer, then shook his head. “I’ve seen what he can do, how he is amassing his power, there is no hiding from him.”

At the reaffirmation of his fear of Hybern’s power, Az decided to switch tactics. He still had other leads to follow up on today and wanted to get to the other brother across the hall before he somehow found out that Mor was close to him. They needed the element of surprise.

“Well, if you’re so sure that you can’t help, as soon as the doc gives you the all-clear, you’ll be free to go with a court date for aggravated assault,” Az paused, he was bluffing about Cairn walking free. The brothers already had two cells with their name on it at The Prison, but he didn’t need to know that. If Cairn cooperated and gave them the information they so desperately needed, he could be put into a safe house with his daughter rather than a cold cell.

“That is, if you make it that long.”

Cairn’s head snapped up trying to understand what the detective meant. The heart monitor betrayed his increased pulse, his fear of Az’s next words.

“I wonder what Hybern would do to you if it leaked out that one of his men spilled his guts to the police. His headquarters location, his plans, his numbers. I bet you wouldn’t last the night.” And your daughter wouldn’t last the week, the words left unsaid in the air.

Az hated that he had to imply that an innocent girl would be hurt but he needed Cairn to want to cooperate. If he could get him on board, then Az would stop at nothing to make sure no harm would come to the girl.

Cairn’s face twisted into a snarl and he yanked hard, over and over at his restraints. “You—you, fuck, don’t let anything happen to her!” the words instead of coming out as a shout, they were broken by a sob, tears shining in the corners of his eyes. This man may be a Hybern gang member, but he loved his daughter to the point that he was ready to break every bone in his body if it meant forcing his way out of the restraints.

Hopefully, Eris across the hall hadn’t heard his brother’s outburst but time was running out.

“I’ll do it, I accept your protection, for whatever it’s worth. I want my daughter with me though.”

Az smiled; he had his informant. More questioning would come later. “Thank you for your cooperation. I will let Chief Noctis know and we’ll have you and your daughter safely hidden by the end of the week, but,” he leaned over Cairn, his eyes darkening, “I expect you to hold up your end of the bargain soon.”

Cairn swallowed and nodded, ready to accept his role.

Az smiled, but it was far from reassuring. It was the smile of Rhys’s top detective, the one known for getting information out of anyone, cold and calculating.

Mor turned for the door and stepping into the hallway, nodding to Alvaro. Az followed and paused with his hand on Eris’s door, looking to Mor for confirmation that she was ready.

Squaring her shoulders, Mor nudged him out of the way and twisted the knob. Instead of her eyes going to Eris in the bed, she focused on the chair that Officer Miller occupied.

“Leave us.” No trace of emotion was on her face, in her voice.

Officer Miller quickly left the room, not wanting to be on the wrong side of his lieutenants’ temper.

Mor took the empty seat, crossing her legs with irreverence and finally acknowledged the man tied to the bed.

Eris looked at her in what could have been shock, but deeper it was predatory recognition. The mouse that he had stalked and nearly caught years ago had fallen back into his paws. Instead of feeling uncomfortable about his situation and his complete inability to move from the bed, Eris settled back into the pillows, a feral grin twisting his mouth into something hideous.

Az stayed near the door, leaning against the frame, observing the silent battle between the lieutenant and her criminal tormentor.

Eris seemed content to break the quiet tension first. “Morrigan Atrium, I heard that you became a pig but how nice of you to come here and verify it for me.”

Mor’s facial expression never changed, no flickers of her internal emotions breaking through. She simply sat and waited for him to talk himself into silence.

“What has it been? More than a decade, certainly. How are your dear parents? I miss them so, we used to have such fun together.”

His grin turned dark, a precursor to the black words that were about to spill out of his mouth. “And how are all your old friends? I haven’t gotten a chance to see them since the party. Now that night, was just too much fun.”

Az locked up every muscle in his body to prevent him from leaping at the man. This was not his fight.

Mor stayed statue still. No crack in the stone armor she had donned over the years when the days were hard.

Eris was slowly losing his blasé cool, his face turning an ugly red under his olive skin tone. He was the one who was always in control, who always had the upper hand.

Mor tilted her head slightly to the side, analyzing the pathetic man who would say anything to get under her skin.

“It has been too long, Eris, what have you been up to?” She broke her silence unexpectedly, his face unable to keep the surprise off of it.

“Oh, you know, working here and there. Doing pretty much whatever I please,” whoever I please his eyes added on with a rake up and down her body.

“And how’s Hybern? I hear he’s not too happy with us getting so close to him, I’m sure it’s starting to get on his nerves. Does he blame you or do you kiss his ass too much for him to care?”

Eris’s face had taken on a hint of purple at the low blow, Mor knew exactly how to hit him. He may have harassed her for years, but for every stab he took at her, she filed away his reactions and interactions with the world around him.

The Vanserra parents were brutal. Cutthroat. Where the Atrium’s used razor-sharp words to keep their children in line with societal expectations, the Vanserra’s preferred a more physical and lasting way to remind their children of their place in the world. It wasn’t uncommon to see Eris and his brothers sporting long sleeves in Velaris’s blistering summers’, most thought it was the family’s standard of style.

Mor knew different. She saw how he stiffened up around his parents, how if he wasn’t careful, his sleeve would ride up revealing dark bruises that looked like handprints. The abuse didn’t stop Eris from acting out, it just made him more careful.

Another side effect was the extreme amount of ass-kissing he did to his father. Anything to please Beron Vanserra. Which made it an easy pressure point for Mor to hit. Eris was a born and bred brown-noser with a taste for violence that he inherited from his father. Being a part of one of Velaris’s ruling families allowed him to get away with anything, even the almost rape of another family’s daughter.

“Hybern is doing quite well, no thanks to you and your department. As I’m sure you already know, we’ve gotten away with a few stunts. It’s almost hilarious how far behind you all are,” Eris turned to look at Az, “a pity that none of your street spies have gotten in our favor. How frustrating it must be.”

Az had even more practice than Mor at keeping his emotions off his face. He learned from an early age to never show your true face. It was better that way.

“Well if you came here for information, I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed. Hybern hates snitches and I like my facial features right where they are.”
“Pity,” Mor commented, “I guess the inmates of The Prison will just have to do it for you.”

Eris’s face went from red to white.

“Oh, that’s right. On his rise to power, Hybern was more than happy to shove the other gangs right into police hands. We might have to thank him one day for that, if we ever meet.”

“You can’t,” Eris breathed, “My family won’t allow this.”

Mor cocked her hear, a low chuckle escaping her lips. “I’m not too worried about your parents. Not sure when you last talked to them, but they’ve been losing power in Velaris’s upper circles the past few years.”

She flicked her eyes to meet his. “Chief Noctis, however, has enjoyed a constant rise to power, continuously bolstered by his family name and his hard work keeping the citizens of this city safe. He has no doubt that DA Kallias Hiems, you remember him don’t you, will move your case right along, approving of you being kept in The Prison until you prove yourself useful or you are sentenced there for the rest of your life. Attacking my friend last night was only the tip of the iceberg, I’m sure it will take us no time to dig up enough against you to keep you there.”

Mor stood, straightened and brushed off her uniform, like being in his presence had dirtied it.

“Now, any questions? We have a busy day putting your boss behind bars.”

Eris could only stare at her, struck silent by his impending future in a cold cell, far, far away from any protection he had with Hybern or his family.

“No? Well, I guess I’ll see you in court,” a cold smile graced her lips, “or maybe not. I think I rather like my last memory of you tied to this bed, unable to move of your own free will. Maybe you feel a fraction of what I went through on that night. Maybe you’ll think of this day for the rest of your life, haunting you like the way you haunted me for so long.

“Never again though. Good-bye, Eris, enjoy rotting in hell.”

His strangled curses were suddenly muffled by her shutting the door and walking out of the hospital into the bright autumn day.

Chapter Text

Mor:  I’m fucking done with this day. Rita’s tonight?

Feyre’s phone buzzed, pulling her out of her painting. She was putting the final touches on what she hoped was the last round of edits by the bakery patroness.

Feyre:  Yes please. I’ll just need to go home and change. Want to meet there at 7 pm?

Mor:  You’ve got it babe, I’ll make sure the rest of the children are in tow.

Feyre:  Lmao see you then :)

She switched to Karen’s chat and sent a text saying that the painting was done, and she will be in her studio tomorrow afternoon to view it. Sending a prayer to the Cauldron that this would be the end to her clients’ critiques, Feyre hopped off the stool and threw her paint-spattered apron over it.

A final glance around her loft studio had her satisfied with today’s progress, even though she was cutting it short to make it to Rita’s on time. Plus, the sun was starting to set, and she promised Rhys that she would make an effort to be home before it was dark.

A quick twist of the lock and few steps later had her down the stairs and in Elain’s flower shop. The air was heavy with the scent of full blooms, bursts of colors that Feyre cataloged and stored away for later use. She stopped in almost every day to see her sister but the effect of the beauty of them never ceased to dull in her artist brain.

“Hey El, we’re going to Rita’s tonight, wanna come with?” calling out to her sister somewhere hidden along the rows of bouquets.

“Not tonight, sorry Fey,” Elain responded, her voice drifting from the front display. “I have two orders to finish up and a new Netflix series calling my name.

Feyre smirked, knowing that her sister would never pass up a chance to see a certain someone. “You sure? Mor promised especially that Az would be making an appearance tonight,” Feyre lilted, the white lie hurting no one.

A small squeak drifted up to hang among the flowers’ aromas. Feyre wove her way to where Elain’s initial response came from. Even though her sister was facing away from her, she could see the burning red ears that peaked through her gold hair.

Ever since Elain tagged along to a brunch to meet Feyre’s then new-boyfriend and friends, she declined almost every invitation to hang out with them again. At first, she thought it was because they could be a bit much for quiet, demure Elain but after a little bit of prying, the real truth was that Elain couldn’t think straight around Az.

“Maybe,” came her response, “I’ll text you if I get done in time here.”

As good as a promise as any, Feyre walked out of the front of the shop and turned right, striding up one of Velaris’s main street. She passed clothing boutiques, bakeries, cafes, galleries, bookshops, each with their own charm that made up the Rainbow. Any citizen of Velaris could walk into the district and leave with exactly what they needed, whether or not it was on their shopping list.

It was Feyre’s favorite place on earth, her home away from home where nothing mattered but the beauty that was in front of her.

The other part of her agreement with Rhys was that she would stick to major streets that were still busy with the days’ shoppers. No short cuts down dark alleys. It wasn’t her biggest problem—number one being that a rising gang wanted her blood— but it did add time to her walk home. Only the charm of the Rainbow soothed her frustration.

The sun had just brushed the horizon, turning the sky soft pinks and oranges, when Feyre reached her townhome. She paused on her doorstep, admiring how the clouds looked like a god had brushed strokes of sun across a periwinkle canvas before stepping into her home.

Feyre repeated the motions from the night before, kicking off her shoes and dropping her bag from the night before at the base of the stairs. She moved to the kitchen for a quick cup of black tea, knowing Mor would persuade the group of them to stay out too late for their own good.

Her phone buzzed with a reply from Karen saying that she’ll stop by the studio at lunchtime to view the piece. With no one to hear her frustration, Feyre let out a soft groan and sent a silent prayer to the gods that she would finally be happy with the work.

Sighing, she set the empty mug into the sink and climbed the steep stairs to her and Rhys’s bedroom. Feyre flicked through her side of the closet, wondering how much work she wanted to put into her outfit tonight. She didn’t have a lot of spare energy, but it had been a while since she dressed up and wanted to keep Rhys’s eyes on her all night.

She decided on a red blouse that sat just off her shoulders, exposing the gentle curve of her collarbone and dusting of freckles that continued down her back. Dark blue skinny jeans and black wedges completed the look, mixing comfort with sophistication. She knew that if the heels were any higher, she would be limping on her walk to the studio tomorrow.

Their bathroom was a bit small but well organized, a double vanity was evenly split between the two, Rhys surprisingly having nearly as many beauty products as Feyre. With the way he looked most of the time, she didn’t think he needed them, and she knew he felt the same way about her makeup supply.

She took her hair down from the crown braid she put it in last night causing soft waves to fall, bringing out the gold highlights that threaded their way through. Thankfully her skin has been behaving itself recently so she minimally applied concealer under her eyes, followed by a bit of powder to set it in place.

She brushed gold eyeshadow in the corners of her crease, bringing out the blue in her eyes with a thin line of eyeliner to give them definition. Black mascara pulled the whole effect together, causing attention to be drawn to how they sparkled with hidden mischief.

Instead of a permanent lipstick, Feyre opted for a light pink lip gloss that could easily be reapplied. Multiple drinks and most likely food would be involved tonight so she didn’t want to fight to keep her lipstick in place.

Final checks in the mirror had her satisfied with her appearance, all that was needed was some small gold earrings that were shaped like leaves, her favorite that Rhys gave her at their six-month anniversary. Feyre moved through the house, flicking off lights and grabbing a black purse to drop her keys and wallet in. The last thing she grabbed was a well-worn black leather jacket hanging by the door, right next to Rhys’s.

Although it was almost fully dark outside, the street their townhouse was on was well lit and the subway station was only a block down. She decided that it would be fine to take a train to Rita’s, it was only a 10-minute ride and the station would be busy with evening commuters. Plenty of cover for her to be safe from any would-be attackers.


Rita’s was their favorite dance hall, close to most of their homes and the precinct, it was a common hangout after a day’s work.

Feyre walked in and headed to their usual booth, she was the first one there, but the others would be along shortly. The club was subdued, the main crowds not showing up until 11 pm or later. For now, she could order nachos from the kitchen and a margarita from the bar to get her started.

Those from the precinct showed up a few minutes later, some still in their white button-down and black slacks, Mor and Rhys choose to change to looser clothes that better fitted the club scene.

All slid into the booth, snagging the nachos away before Feyre could protest, Rhys on her left and Az on her right. The waitress approached, recognizing the friends as regulars, and took their drink orders. Feyre leaned into Rhys’s warmth, enjoying his presence and started chatting with Cass about his day at the department. Rhys happily leaned his cheek on the top of her head, breathing in the subtle perfume she sprayed on before leaving the house.

All chatted and exchanged conversation partners, catching up on their days, even when they all mostly worked with each other. There was something different hearing about someone’s day than just merely observing it.

Mor carefully avoided her visit to the hospital and none of the others pressed her for details. She and Azriel had made their official report and arranged for the brothers to be placed in their respective places when the doctors released them from care.

Their drinks arrived, then were soon replaced by more rounds, all of them on the way to being pleasantly tipsy. More bar food was ordered and being passed around while the club slowly filled up, more people starting their weekend early.

Feyre’s phone buzzed on the table.

Elain:  How long will you be at Rita’s? I just got home. 

Feyre:  We’re just getting started, come join us!

Elain:  *sigh* I’m on my way.

Feyre:  !!!!! <3<3<3

“Elain’s coming!” Feyre announced to the table. Az had exchanged places with Cassian at some point, now sitting to Rhys’s left, but Feyre could still see around her boyfriend. He was already faintly flushed from the alcohol, but the news of Elain joining them caused the blush to deepen marginally.

Rhys and Feyre exchanged smug looks, they had been trying to get the two to talk more since they first met with little success. Maybe tonight they could mettle a bit more to push the two together.

Mor chugged the rest of her drink and reached across Cass to grab onto Feyre,  time to dance it seems . Cass scooted out of the booth to comply with Mor’s requests. Feyre stumbled slightly, her friends’ hidden strength and the heels working against gravity.

They somehow made it onto the dance floor with no broken ankles, Mor pressing her hips flush to Feyre’s so that they were chest-to-chest, setting the pace to the beat of the song.

Mor giggled, pressing her forehead to Feyre’s exposed shoulder, looping her arms around her friends’ waist. She returned the laughter, the weight of the past 24 hours falling off her shoulders with the help of her company and the liquor that was warming her belly.

The men watched from the booth, smiling at the pair making their own fun, continuing with their conversations, arguing over upcoming sports events and where to watch them this weekend.

Behind them, Elain entered the club, spotting Az’s closely cropped hair and broad shoulders immediately. Her cheeks were pink from the chill outside, worsened at the anticipation of seeing him. Almost of their own will, her feet turned towards the bar, hinting at her need for liquid courage before facing the man.

Early enough still to not be packed, she easily found a seat and ordered a Jack and coke, stronger than her usual but the situation called for something bracing. And something that would hit her system faster.

Elain mindlessly scrolled through her social media feeds, neglected after a busy day in her shop. She had tried to linger at  Fleurs par Elain,  putting finishing touches on orders and preparing the back room for tomorrow’s delivery, but her assistants were too efficient, and she was quickly done. Even dragging her feet home, she had too much time before bed, leaving Feyre’s offer to join them at Rita’s very tempting.

A quick text confirmed that they would be there for hours to come and soon she was discarding outfit after outfit. Some too fancy and some too casual. Elain eventually settled on light blue jeans and a loose floral long sleeve. A bit on the nose for her profession but it was comfy and brought out the gold in her eyes. Not one for heels, she decided to wear her brown flats in case Mor got it in her head to pull her onto the dance floor. No need for her to trip and make a fool of herself in front of the guy she thought was too attractive for her own good.

The liquor started to relax her body; liquid confidence had her close to joining the others. Tucking her phone into her back pocket, Elain made to grab her drink when a well-muscled, darkly clad arm blocked her from leaving her seat.

“Hello, gorgeous. What brings you here tonight?” She followed the arm up to the face of its owner. He was maybe about her age, tanned with dirty blond hair and blue eyes. Not ugly by any means but her thoughts were currently preoccupied with a certain dark-haired detective.

“My friends, actually. I was just about the rejoin them, so if you’ll excuse me,” she replied. When their mother was raising them, she drilled countless hours of etiquette and politeness into their minds. Even with the unwelcome interaction, Elain refused to be rude or force her way out.  

“I’m sure they can wait,” he drawled, a lazy smile followed the words. His eyes roamed her body, leaving her feeling like she needed to shower twice to get rid of the filth he left behind.

“What’s your name, beautiful?”

“Elain,” the alcohol and her manners allowing her name to slip out.

E-lain , a pretty name for a pretty girl,” his eyes tracing her figure again. “Well I’m a bit pressed for time tonight, the boss wants me working late, but how about I grab your number and I’ll see you this weekend.”

Elain opened her mouth, racking her mind for some excuse to get herself out of his request or scrounging through her memories for one of those fake numbers she can give to him.

“I’ve got our first date all planned out already,” he barreled on, oblivious to her uneasiness. “There’s this super exclusive fight happening uptown, invitation only. High-class members all in masks, quite romantic I think,” he leaned in, forcing her to capture his eyes.

“It’s run by my boss actually, he’s become quite the hot commodity lately,” the man continued, he was trying to impress her, with little success.

He pulled his phone out, the moment for her to put in a number had arrived. As if the universe sensed her discomfort, his phone started to ring.

Mr. Hybern  flashed on the screen, the man flinched a bit and immediately answered.

“Mr. Hybern, I’m on my way, sir.” The club was too loud at this point for her to hear the voice on the other side, but by the man’s facial expressions, it wasn’t a pleasant conversation.

Without another glance to her, rushed towards the door, what she assumed was his boss had lit a fire under his ass.

Elain finished her drink, flagging the bartender down and ordered lemonade with vodka. She was happy that she didn’t have to give him her number, lucky that he got a call at the perfect moment.

She’d had plenty of guys hit on her over the years, her smaller stature and polite manners making her an easy target for men to shoot their shot. Usually a nice enough turn down was enough to send them on their way but some were persistent. He was one of the persistent ones, but the Caldron seemed to be on her side tonight. Maybe the luck would last as she made her way over to her friends.

Feyre and Mor were on the dance floor, leaving a spot open by either Cass or Az. Her nerves told her to sit by Cass, safe, comfortable, familiar.

The alcohol made her bold, spurred on by her unwelcome admirer, she wanted to be close to someone she was actually attracted to and whose attentions would be welcome. She slid into the booth beside Az, slipping into his radius of warmth. Fire blazed in her cheeks and tried to convince herself that is was only from the heat of the club and liquor.

“Hey guys,” she offered, nodding to Rhys and Cass before looking up to give Az a small smile. He looked slightly surprised at her direct acknowledgment. Every time they had met beforehand, she only barely recognized his existence, giving up no more words than societal convention called for.

Cass and Rhys gave their greetings, resuming their conversation from before.

“It’s good to see you, been a while,” Az said in a lower tone so that only she could hear him.

“Yeah, I’ve been busy with the flower shop. Business is really picking up.”

“I’m glad, your arrangements are always so… exquisite. I see them in Feyre’s house all the time.”

Elain somehow blushed harder at his praise. She knew she was talented but hearing it from him strengthened her confidence in her work.

“How are you this evening?” gently avoiding commenting on her reaction.

“Fine, better now that I’m here with you—,” Elain caught herself, not meaning to imply that she was happy to see only him, though what her heart might scream otherwise. “I mean, um, it’s better than when I was at the bar, some guy was hitting on me and wasn’t taking the hint.”

Az frowned slightly at that, she tried not to read into it too much.

She babbled on, “Yeah, he was going on and on about his boss, trying to get my number so he can take me to a fight this weekend. I got lucky that his boss called him at that moment, and he ran off. I guess I have a Mr. Hybern to thank for that.”

Everyone at the table froze, their breaths trapped in their throats. The temperature seemed to rise several degrees as all of her friends’ stares locked onto her face.

“What?” her gaze flitted around, trying to not let it rest too long on the man beside her.

The trio only continued to stare at her, tension building until Mor and Feyre stumbled back to the table, a light sheen of sweat coating them.

The girls were laughing at some dumb joke Mor made but stopped when they noticed the men were all looking at Elain with weird intensity.

“What? What happened?” Feyre asked, worried that something was wrong with Elain. She didn’t mean to pressure her too hard into coming out tonight and hoped that she didn’t fuck things up between her and Az.

Rhys was the first to regain his composure.

“Elain here just gave us the most wonderful news.”

Chapter Text

It has been 36 hours since Elain inadvertently found out about a fight that Hybern was hosting on Saturday night. And 35 hours and 59 minutes ago, all of her idiot friends have decided that they want to go to the fight.

Instead of bashing all their heads together, Feyre took out her frustration of their foolishness on the punching bag in front of her. Saturday mornings were spent at the gym with Cass, sharpening their skills and strengthening their friendship. She got here an hour earlier than usual so that when he finally showed up, she would be less inclined to punch him.

One. One-two. One. One-two.

The bag absorbed the force of her punches with grace, not nearly as satisfying as going up against Cassian. He needed to hurry his ass up.

She paused, catching the bag to keep it from swinging wildly, pressing her forehead against the cool vinyl. Her mind wandered to Thursday night without meaning to, replaying the moments after Elain had given them a crucial clue to finding Hybern.

“Elain here just gave us the most wonderful news.”

Mor and Feyre turned their eyes to her, asking with eyebrows to repeat what she had just said.

Elain looked just as confused. Only moments before she had been getting hit on by a random guy at the bar, and now, all of her friends were acting as if she had just saved the city from a meteor.

Az saved her from having to sort through what she just told them. “Hybern is hosting an exclusive, high society only fight on Saturday.”

Feyre gasped and Mor’s brows knitted together, this could finally be what they needed to get a leg up on taking the volatile gang down.

“We’re going,” Mor said to Rhys, surprising them all. “We can use our family contacts to get us an invitation to the fight.”

“No,” Feyre interjected, “if he knows who I am, and what I look like,” she gritted through her teeth, “then Hybern and his men know exactly what you two look like.  You’ll never make it past the front door.”

“It’s a masquerade, everyone will be hidden,” Cass informed her, “some people don’t like others knowing what debaucheries they take enjoyment in.”

“I don’t care, if I can’t be out too late or take my shortcuts, what gives you the right to put yourself in danger?”

“It’s our job,” Rhys finally spoke, locking eyes with his girlfriend.

Feyre knew that what her friends did was sometimes dangerous, but never had she been involved in it so much. Or feared for them so much.

The thump of a bag from behind startled her out of her reverie. Cass finally decided to show his face, his normal shit-eating grin right where it should be.

“Well, well, well, look who’s early. Normally I’m the one who has to call you until you drag your ass out of bed,” he drawled, taking in the sweat that had already started to soak through her shirt.

Feyre only rolled her eyes, turning her attention back onto the bag and resumed her rhythm. He moved around to hold it in place for her, the echoes of her punches reaching him on the other side.

“What’s wrong, Rhys not giving it up enough for you?”

Feyre aimed an extra hard punch to the side of the bag, almost driving the breath out of Cass. She could only glare at him, words failing to piece themselves together about how utterly mad she was with all of them for taking this risk.

“What? Are you mad at me for not putting out? You know that’s not my job,” he pushed further, not stopping until she talked to him.

Cass only barely made it out of the way while Feyre whipped her leg around, striking the bag and where he would have been if he hadn’t moved.

“I’m mad because all my friends are overconfident assholes!” she finally spat out, fire burning in her eyes. The heat of her expression made him step away, only a tiny bit fearful that he might not move in time if she aimed another kick at the bag.

“Feyre, we’re only doing our jobs.”

“I know, I know, but I can’t stand by while you put your lives at risk over an event that might not yield any actual information.”

Cass’s face softened, Feyre was mad but only because she couldn’t do anything to help them. She was a civilian and could break a lot of laws getting in their way. Not that attending exclusive, illegal fight clubs was necessarily legal, but Rhys was the chief of police and could authorize a lot of things.

“Hey,” bringing his hands to cup her shoulders, letting her know that he heard her, “I know you don’t like this, but we’re taking every precaution we can so that no one gets hurt. We know their phones will be confiscated at the door, but Rhys managed to get his hands on some new tech, comms that will get past security and keep us in touch with him. We’ll be right around the block to get him and Mor out if things go south.”

Feyre heaved a sigh, nodding. Rhys had demonstrated the tech to her last night in an attempt to calm her fears. It only did the opposite, proving to her that the lion’s den her boyfriend was walking into was much worse than any gang they had busted before.

She forced her face to brighten, to look relieved that they were trying their best to keep everyone safe, but who knew if it would be enough.

They would need a man on the inside, not just observing the fight but there on the ground to keep an eye on all the details hidden in the background.

Feyre and Cass walked into the ring to go a few rounds, half of an idea forming as they grappled, punched, kicked and rolled, with Feyre coming out victorious every time.

Yeah, this could work.

 

Rhys straightened his mask for the millionth time, Mor was ready to snap at him if she wasn’t fidgeting in her own ways, checking her phone and recrossing her legs every three minutes.

City lights streamed by their windows. They had gotten only two days to prep for infiltrating this fight, even if they had two months it still wouldn’t have prepared them for the night ahead.

The fight was taking place in a middle-class part of the city, not the upscale city center or the low-income fringes, where one would expect this type of exclusive activity. Unfortunately, it wasn’t anywhere close to where they thought Hybern’s hideout might be, of course, he wouldn’t be stupid enough to hold it there, but they could hope.

Rhys and Mor’s family connections panned out, they had a mutual acquaintance they always seemed to be on the shadier side of high-class society, but nothing that had brought too much attention to him. Lucky for them, he knew exactly when and where the fight was happening, and how to get them on the list with minimal questions asked.

Thankfully they didn’t have to explain themselves to their friend, he always had a sneaking suspicion that the children of the Noctis and Atrium families had a taste for the dark side, even with them being police. Corruption can spread anywhere and Velaris is no exception to the rule.

Rhys knew that Feyre wasn’t happy with him, but he had to do his job. He had to protect his city, and her. He tried to convince her that they would be fine, laying out all the safety precautions they were taking to try to put her at ease.

When he left the house that evening, she didn’t say much, a distracted look glazing her beautiful blue-grey eyes. She still gripped him tightly and held him captivated in a passionate kiss as he was leaving, but she still seemed to be in a faraway place. Maybe it was her way of coping with the danger she perceived.

Mor greeted him when he slipped into the non-descriptive black sedan they rented that night. Anything else that they owned or was from the precinct would get them caught immediately.

“Check, check one-two,” a voice buzzed in his ear. Azriel's’ cool voice was slightly distorted but still clear enough to hear.

“I can hear you,” Rhys confirmed. Mor echoed his response. Looks like the tech Tarquin had loaned them still had a few kinks to work out but would do for tonight.

“Ok, we’re parked on 5th, let us know immediately in you need back up and we’ll get you guys out,” Cass’s voice came through. Around the precinct, he was always ready to crack a dirty joke, but tonight he was the image of a perfect sergeant, alert and ready for danger.

“These comms only work within a five-block radius so try not to go running anywhere,” it was rare to hear Az make anything close to a joke on duty, it was the only thing that betrayed his nerves.

“We’ll stay within range,” Mor confirmed, catching Rhys’s eye with a nod.

Their driver dropped them off at a refurbished warehouse a few streets off from the shopping district they were near. Only a low rumble of noise hinted at the chaos that would greet them once they got through security.

He turned to help Mor out of the backseat, her red high heels, mask and matching dress only looked like it would be impossible to arrest someone in, but the slit up the side allowed for easy movement and access to her gun. Mor had been trained her whole life to exist in heels. Any perp that thought they would get an easy escape from her would-be sorely mistaken.

Rhys felt more comfortable in his three-piece suit, all black on black, oozing wealth and ego. His silver mask offset the ensemble, but still shadowing his trademark violet eyes. It would be easy to blend into the crowd; he was accustomed to adapting to any scenario he needed to.

He waved off the driver and turned to the entrance, there was no room to show hesitation. They had to play the part of the privileged, looking up to no one and nothing but their piles of cash.

Knock. Knock knock…. Knock.

A slot in the door opened, one black eye peering out, glaring at the newcomers.

“Password?” the voice grunted.

“Thorns and roses,” Rhys responded, not bothering to meet the guards’ eye like he was beneath him.

The panel closed and the sound of a heavy blot being undone rattled the iron door. It swung to open inside, causing the muffled noise to now pour out onto the street, a tidal wave of cheering and alcohol.

They stepped into the golden light of the entryway and the door was shoved closed behind them. No easy escape there tonight.

“Cell phones,” the same gruff voice ordered them. Holding out a cotton bag with a tag attached.

“Absolutely not,” venom poured from his gritted teeth. They knew to expect this and brought burner phones instead of their personal, but he didn’t need to know that.

“Cell phones or get out, no special treatment.”

With a look that could’ve crumpled a lesser man, Rhys dropped his phone into the bag, Mor’s soon following.

The grunt gestured for them to proceed to the next room, where the sounds of at least a hundred people seemed to be pouring from.

Turning the corner, a room almost the size of a small warehouse greeted them. In the middle was a caged ring, something out of a WWE match, octagonal on all sides with high chain-link walls.

Platforms tiered around the central ring, dotted with tables and small bars, where masked bartenders served up an endless supply of alcohol to the waiting patrons. Everyone was dressed impeccably, even their masks could have paid a months’ salary of some of the city’s workers.

The place was wrought with wealth, the kind of wealth that caused people to seek thrills that the darker underworld can only offer.

Rhys and Mor wove between tables until they reached one of the bars about midway from the ring. From here they could keep an eye on the door and see most of the room. A gap in the lower platforms led to a hallway where presumably the fighters were waiting to take the stage.

“Whiskey, neat,” he ordered. The well-trained bartender slid him the drink in record time, Hybern hired the best it looked like. Mor got her drink and Rhys paid with a fifty, motioning for them to keep the change.

They turned to the ring, “When do you think the first match will be?” she asked.

Rhys was about the reply when the loudspeakers began to crackle overhead.

“Now it seems,” he said with a small smirk, taking a sip of his drink, the burning liquor sliding down his throat.

“Ladies. Gentlemen. Miscreants. Hybern welcomes you to our exclusive Fight Night. Now is the time to finish placing all bets, it is time to begin!

“We start with the Attor, he came to us from the darkest alleys, fighting his way tooth and nail to earn a place at Roman Hybern’s side. He is known for his black heart and dirty fighting, not someone that you would want to meet on the street,” the announcer finished darkly.

A roar of cheers swept through the room as a black-clad figure stepped out of the hallway and entered the cage. He looked as though he could be young or old, stringy black hair was slicked to his scalp. The Attor was slim with wiry muscles and looked like he had been a caged pet for too long, finally let out to stretch his legs and lash out at anyone who got too close. Rhys shuddered to think about who might be at the end of his broken, grimy nails.

The Attor strutted around the ring, a feral grin splitting his mouth, showing off his cracked, yellow teeth. Despite his filthy appearance, he had a fair amount of support from the crowd. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time Hybern had put on these fights.

“His opponent,” he paused to allow the crowd to quiet down, “a newcomer.” Boos echoed against the walls.

“She appeared out of nowhere, claiming to be undefeated in the ring. If you know who this woman is, someone tell me ‘cause it looks like I’ll be the one dumping her in front of the hospital. She calls herself Cursebreaker, the one who can break anyone’s winning streak.”

More boos chased her out of the hallway and onto the ring. A dark blue cloak hid her form and her face. Rhys almost chuckled, the cloak looked like the one that Feyre wore to the Ren Fest a few years ago, it looks like this fighter had a flair for the dramatic.

The cloak of midnight fluttered to the ground having been whipped off by its wearer.

And that’s when Rhys’ heart stopped.

He knew every curve of her body, even with her hair dyed dark and a full-face mask hiding her features, Rhys knew that was his girlfriend standing in the ring.