Page 19

Get with the program?

Oh, I was so going to get with the program. Throwing the door shut behind me, I flipped on the light and stalked toward the narrow closet next to the dresser.

Spying the weekender bag Tink had used to pack some of my stuff in, I grabbed it from the floor of the closet and tossed it onto the bed.

Days? Hours? Weeks? They had no idea how long we had before the Prince found this place and broke through the glamour. It wasn’t an unlikely event. It was inevitable. There were too may fae here, too many unknown variables at play. With me here, the Prince would discover Hotel Good Fae, and there was no doubt in my mind that the very first person he’d take out was Ren.

Panic unfurled in the pit of my stomach as I stared at the bag. With sudden clarity, I knew I couldn’t tell Ren or Tink what I was planning to do. Neither of them would want me to leave. They’d stop me, and the whole point was to keep them safe.

That meant I had to leave without them.

Raw pain punched my chest as I turned to the dresser. Could I do that? Could I walk out of here without saying goodbye? Without one more kiss? One more I love you?

And what about Tink?

He would be so pissed, and would probably annoy Ren to the point of getting himself murdered in cold blood, but Tink had to understand. He knew what the Prince was capable of.

“Oh God,” I whispered, pressing the heel of my palm to my forehead. The back of my throat burned as I closed my eyes.

What was I doing?

The panic turned into the kind of hurting that sucked away at the soul. I had to leave them. I knew that. It was the only way they’d be safe until they found that damned Crystal, or I . . . found a way to weaken the Prince so he could be killed.

Lowering my hand, I opened my eyes. They were damp as I stared at the dresser. Everyone was focused on putting the Prince back in the Otherworld because killing him was virtually impossible, but nothing was truly impossible.

Someone out there had to know how to weaken him enough that cutting off his head was feasible.

Steely resolve filled me as I stepped forward, opening the drawer. Since the Prince could sense me, he had to know I was still in New Orleans. If I left, then he’d follow. I’d just have to keep moving until I figured out a way to weaken the bastard long enough to kill him. While I was gone, Ren and Tink could work with Tanner to find the Crystal. They’d be safe, and that was all that mattered.

The door opened just as I yanked several pants out of the drawer. Spinning around, I saw Ren standing in the open doorway.


I guessed I wouldn’t know if I could walk out of here without seeing him or saying goodbye. This just got a hell of a lot harder.

Nothing about him looked relaxed as his gaze moved from my hands to the open bag on the bed. “You didn’t come to the cafeteria.” There was a pause. “What are you doing, Ivy?”

What I was doing at that exact moment was being frozen between the bed and dresser, cradling pants to my boobs. “I . . . I’m packing.”

Stepping into the room, he closed the door behind him. “Packing to go where?”

I opened my mouth, but I had no idea what to say. I hadn’t planned to see him before I left.

His brows lowered as he came closer. “What are you doing, Sweetness?”

Swallowing, I glanced down at the bag. A huge part of me wished I could lie, but I’d already lied too many times to him. As much as this was going to suck, I had to tell the truth. “I . . . I need to leave.”

“Leave?” He stopped beside me. “Okay. I feel like I’m missing a vital part of some story. Did something else happen?” His eyes flared a vivid green. “Did someone try to attack you again?”

“There wasn’t an attack between the time I left you in the hallway and now.” I placed the pants in the bag and looked up at him. “Did you know that the Prince can get through the glamour here?”

His expression smoothed out. “You’re safe here, Ivy. No matter what. I’m going to make it so—”

“I’m not worried about me being safe!” My frustration rose. “Why does everyone keep bringing that up like I need to be taken care of? I got my ass kicked. I almost died, but I’m alive and I’m not scared.”

Confusion filled his striking eyes. “I’m not saying that you’re scared, but it would be okay if you were, Ivy. No one could blame you for that.”

Cursing under my breath, I spun and grabbed a handful of underwear. The thing was, I wasn’t scared. I was angry. Furious. Enraged all the time, but I wasn’t scared. Not for myself. “I’m not afraid.”

There was a pause while I shoved my underwear into the bag. “Ivy—”

I whirled on him. “Do you guys even realize that I’m the only one here that the Prince won’t kill? Unless he finds another halfling somewhere in the world, spoiler alert, I’m surviving this story. I can’t say the same for all of you.”

“Yeah, and what he wants from you isn’t a walk in the park, Ivy.”

My hands tightened. “I know exactly what he wants from me. Trust me. I got front row tickets for that.”

Ren drew back, wincing. “I’m sorry. That was callous of me to throw that out there like that.”

“It doesn’t matter.” I waved him off. “I can’t be here. Not when the Prince knows damn well I’m still in New Orleans. He has to be out there looking for me. It’s only a matter of time before he follows a fae here.”

“So you’re . . . leaving the one place that could protect you from him to protect the fae here?”

“Yep.” I moved to the dresser, searching for tops. “That sums it up quite nicely. And let’s not forget, it’s not like everyone is happy to have me here. Not that I can blame them for not wanting me here. If I go, they’re safe.”

“That’s absurd.”

“I don’t think you really believe that.”

“I’m going to get real with you. I don’t give a fuck about the fae here.”

I gasped as I faced him. “Wow, Ren.”

“What?” His chest rose with a heavy breath as he met my wide eyes. “It’s the truth. I’m not wishing ill on them. Except for the very dead bastards who went after you, the rest seem cool, but there is no choice when it comes between you and them.”

That kind of made me feel all warm and fuzzy in my chest for all the wrong reasons. “It’s not just the fae that are in danger because of me. Tink is. You are.” Panic spread in my stomach, reaching my chest. “The Prince would love nothing more than to kill you. You know that.”

A muscle ticked in his jaw. “I would love nothing more than to come face to face with that fucker.”

Horror seized me. The mere thought of Ren going toe to toe with the Prince made me want to scream until my voice gave out. “Are you serious? You know what he’s capable of. It’s not like fighting a normal fae or even an Ancient. The Prince—”

“I know what he’s capable of,” Ren growled, eyes glimmering. “Do not underestimate the strength of my hatred for that son of a bitch.”

“I don’t, but—”

“I can take care of myself. So can Tink. You’re not doing us any favors by leaving.”

Grabbing shirts, I walked them over to the bed. “I don’t think I’m doing you a favor. I’m. . . .” Squeezing my eyes shut, I shook my head and tried again. “I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to you or Tink. Do you understand that? I couldn’t deal with that.”

“And we feel the same way about you. I think you know that already.”

I did.

Look what they’d already done to save me. Ren would live with the guilt of forcing me to feed for the rest of his life. Tink probably didn’t feel all that bad about it, but whatever. They were already making sacrifices and horrifying choices because of me.

It stopped now.

His voice was closer, more even. “I get that you don’t want to put these people in danger. That you want to protect Tink and me, but Sweetness, you’re just . . . you’re reacting because of what happened to you. Knee jerk. You’re not thinking this through.”