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Ren’s voice thickened. “I’d rather have you pissed off at me for the rest of your very long life than to allow the world’s brightest fucking star to go out. You can hate me today and tomorrow, but at least you’ll have a tomorrow, and I’ll make damn sure you have a whole bunch of them to be angry with me.”

Oh God.

I didn’t know how to respond to that. Emotion crawled up my throat. Tears filled my eyes. I stepped back and then to the side. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, I leaned forward, dropping my arms into my lap.

Ren didn’t make a sound, but I felt him move closer. He dropped down to his knees in front of me, surprising me. Looking up, he placed his hands on either side of my hips, close but not touching me. “I’m sorry that I took part in making you feed. I hated doing that, knowing what you’d been through. I hated the fact that I wasn’t with you when you were attacked. Fuck,” he bit out. “I wish I hadn’t walked away from you the night you told me you were a halfling. I could’ve stopped all of this.”

I stiffened. “Ren—”

“Yeah, you’re going to say that wasn’t my fault, but if I hadn’t acted like a dick and gotten myself captured, the Prince would’ve never been able to masquerade as me. None of this bad shit would’ve happened.”

That wasn’t true. Even if Ren had fully accepted what I was the moment I’d told him, Drake would’ve found another way.

He was creepy and psychotic like that.

“And I have to live with that for the rest of my life,” Ren added, slowly lifting his hands. He found mine, threading his fingers through them. “And I’ll have to live with the choice I made and the choice I took from you. I am more than willing to do that, but I do not regret one second making that choice to save you, even if it means that you hate me.”

Deep down, I knew the truth and how messed up it was. If the shoes were on different feet, and Ren was a halfling and dying, I would’ve done the same to save him.

I would’ve taken his choice from him.

I would’ve taken his will away.

I would’ve saved him even if it cost me his love.

My chest squeezed and I whispered the truest thing I could say in that moment. “I don’t hate you.”

Ren’s grip tightened on my hands as he bowed his head. His curls fell forward and when he spoke, his voice was rough. “I can’t lose you.”

“You haven’t.”

He brought my hands to his mouth, kissing the top of both of them. “Then why does it feel like I already have?”

Startled, I pulled on my hands, but he held on. “Why do you think that?”

He looked up at me, his eyes the color of dewy grass. “Do you really have to ask that, Sweetness?”

I started to say yes, but the word died on my tongue. My thoughts raced to find a way to deny why he’d feel that way, but I came up empty. Not because he was right. Not in the way he thought.

Because it wasn’t him losing me.

It was me losing myself.

Chapter 10

Ren and I didn’t talk much after that, but he convinced me to go down with him to have dinner, and I didn’t have it in me to make up an excuse.

I discovered then that Ren had confiscated the iron daggers at some point, and we armed ourselves up just in case someone wanted to go for a round two with me.

“Was there anyone else involved in the attack?” I asked as I hooked the dagger to my hip. It felt good to have it back. I tugged my shirt over the belt and dagger.

“Not as far as I can tell.” Ren opened the door, and we started down the hall. “And trust me, I’ve been very convincing on when it comes to how important it is to tell the truth.”

I glanced at him. His jaw was set in a hard line. “So, you think it was only those two?”

Ren nodded as he hit the button to bring up the elevator. “I’ve interviewed nearly eighty percent of the fae here. So far, none of them were involved.”

Eighty percent? “Damn, you’ve been busy.”

The elevator doors slid open, and he stepped aside, allowing me to enter. “Had to keep busy since I was banned from your room. It was either that or go crazy.”

I folded my arms over my waist, focusing on the brown paneled walls. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if Ren had been injured and I hadn’t been able to see him.

“I do have some questions.” Ren leaned against the wall, drawing my gaze. “Did the fae say anything to you?”

Exhaling slowly, I nodded. “They didn’t come after me because I’m an Order member.” I paused. “Or was. Who knows at this point. Anyway, they did it because I was a halfling and . . .”

What the fae had said to me came roaring back. Holy crap, I’d forgotten that the fae had said the Prince would find me here, that he’d eventually break through the glamour.

My stomach bottomed out just as the elevator opened on the main floor.

“And what?” Ren stepped out.

I followed, my skin feeling like ice. “They were just scared. That was all.” My gaze lifted to his. “They were just scared.”

“I don’t give a fuck if they were terrified or not.” His eyes hardened. “You were supposed to be safe here. You weren’t.”

The doors closed behind us, but neither of us moved. “And I should’ve been able to defend myself.”

“You didn’t have a dagger, something that won’t happen again.”

“With or without the dagger, I should’ve easily taken them down or gotten away,” I pointed out, still disgusted over how easy it had been for the fae. “I was unprepared and hadn’t been paying attention.”

Ren stepped into me. “You took one of them down, Ivy. Without a weapon. After being stabbed. Give yourself some credit.”

My lips twitched but it didn’t spread into a real smile. Not when the fae’s words were echoing in my head. “I need to talk to Tanner real quick. I’ll join you in the cafeteria.”

His head cocked. “I can go with you.”

“You don’t need to.” I quickly stepped around him. “It’s only going to take a couple of minutes. I’ll be right there.”

Ren opened his mouth, but I didn’t give him the chance to say anything. I jogged off down the other corridor, relieved when I looked over my shoulder and didn’t see him.

It took no amount of time for me to find Tanner. He was in his office, and when I burst into the room, he was sitting in a wingback chair across from Merle, engaging in some tea time.

Merle had been ostracized from the Order ages ago, something that always irritated me since she had given her life and then some to them. Rumor was she’d been caught by a fae without the protection of a clover and her mind had been a few screws short since then, but who even knew if that was true? Merle may be odd, but she was sharp as a tack whenever I was around her.

And I couldn’t help but remember her standing in the back of the room Ren had brought my bleeding body into. Her face had been void of all emotion. Could she have had something to do with it?

She could be odd, but she always seemed to like me.

“Ivy.” Tanner put his itty-bitty cup onto a platter and smiled even though it was obvious he was surprised to see me. “I’m so glad to see you up and moving about.”

“Are you really?” I asked, staring pointedly at Merle’s back. She didn’t turn around.

“Of course.” He looked and sounded surprised by the question. “What happened to you was inexcusable and you have my most sincere apologies that it occurred. I promised you sanctuary. You did not receive that.”

Before I could respond, Merle did. “Ivy is a trained member of the Order. Two ordinary fae should not have been difficult for her to handle. Back in my heyday, I could take four out in the blink of an eye.”


My eyes narrowed on her back. “Well, thank you for making it sound like getting stabbed was my fault.”

“It was not your fault,” Tanner was quick to add. “I am glad to hear that so far Ren has not found any conspirators.” His gaze dropped to where the dagger created a slight bulge along my hip. “Though I do understand why you feel the need to arm yourselves.”