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Part of me didn’t want to risk waiting another hour. Who knew when these magical Crystal sniffing fae were actually going to show up. I had no doubt in my mind that the Prince would discover this place, but we probably had a couple of days before that happened. Maybe even a week, but when the Prince did come, I knew there wouldn’t even be hours before he broke through.

Ren . . . Ren had said please, and all I could think of was him saying that same word to me, begging me to hang on when I’d been injured.

I exhaled raggedly, plopping down on the bed. “Fine. I’ll stay until they get here, but if they can’t help—”

“You’re out,” he growled. “Got it.”

My gaze flickered to his. “Ren—”

“Don’t,” he cut me off, and my stomach soured. “I don’t want to hear whatever is about to come out of your mouth.”

I stiffened. There was no mistaking the fury etched into his face or in his tone. It was restrained but there, like the eye of the storm in the middle of a hurricane.

“I know you’ve been through hell and you’re trying to deal. Damn, I know that there’s a huge part of you still stuck in that hell, especially after the attack and what we did to save you—what happened between us afterward. I know there’s a huge part of you still there, back at that house. That’s what wakes you up every night and that’s why you spend your day hiding from me—from everyone. That’s why you don’t talk to me.”

“I-I talk to you,” I said, feeling my throat squeeze shut.

“Bullshit,” he shot back. “Seeing you hurting and having no clue how to help you kills me—eats away at me every damn day. That pain is worse than anything I went through at that damn house.”

“You haven’t talked to me!” I reminded him. “It’s not like you’ve done the whole caring and sharing thing.”

“You haven’t asked, Ivy.”

Air lodged in my throat. Oh God, he was right. I hadn’t . . . I hadn’t asked.

“But you want to know now? Fine. As you already know, I got my ass captured the night you told me you were the Halfling. I was caught up in my head and walked right into a damn trap that bitch had set. I got knocked out, and when I woke up, I was in that pitch-black cell, chained to a damn wall. I saw the Prince first and that’s how I knew what he was going to do. After feeding and beating the shit out of me, he became me. Then he left me to Breena.”

My stomach twisted.

“That bitch knows how to use her nails and teeth.”

The image of his bare chest surfaced. His skin had been shredded and bitten. I could taste the fury I’d felt upon seeing him and I wanted to draw blood all over again. “Did she . . . ?”

“Did she force herself on me?” His eyes flashed. “Would it change things if she had?”

“God. No.” Everything inside of me was twisted up. “It wouldn’t be your fault. I wouldn’t think differently of you or anything like that.”

Ren was quiet for a long moment. “She messed with me, but she was more interested in fucking with my head than my body. Pretty confident she’s actually disgusted by humans and wouldn’t lower herself to screw one. Did she say something different?”

A bit of relief swept through me, but it was bittersweet. Knowing that what Breena claimed had happened between them was false didn’t lessen the horrific things that were done to Ren. “She did, and I was never sure if I believed her. Faye said Breena hadn’t, but Faye would lie to keep me from attacking Breena.” Memories of Breena’s taunts returned. “She knew where your Order tattoo was.”

The three interlocking spirals were in the same place as mine, near my hipbone.

“Their favorite pastime was to strip me naked and leave me to freeze my balls off.”

“Jesus.” Exhaling raggedly, I sat back down on the bed. The weariness returned, dampening the anger until it returned to a simmer.

The silence was broken when Ren said, “I know that I’m only aware of about one tenth of the shit you went through there, and I’ve wanted to know all of it. Every single damn horrible thing so that I can be there for you, but I’ve waited, because I wanted you to be ready—to be at the point where you can talk to me. So it shocks the shit out of me that you were going to run without me, without even telling me. That you didn’t want me beside you, no matter what.”

Anything I was about to say turned to ash on my tongue. That wasn’t how I meant for it to come across. Not at all.

He swallowed hard. “And you know what I just now realized? You’ve been running without me this whole time, haven’t you? There’s never been an us. There’s been you and then there’s been me chasing you.”

Tears crawled up the back of my throat as I rose on shaky knees. “That’s not how it’s been. Ren, that’s—”

“It’s not? You might want to think about that.” He stepped back, opening the door. “The fucked up thing, Ivy? You were willing to stay, but not for me—not for us. And that’s not because you’re trying to protect me. You were bailing on me. You were bailing on us—if there ever really was an us.”

Chapter 12

I did a lot of thinking that night.

It was all I did.

And for once, I didn’t spend the night thinking about what had happened or what could’ve happened while the Prince held me captive. I wasn’t even thinking about getting stabbed. Instead, I lay there, my thoughts consumed by what Ren had said as I stared at the bland white ceiling.

Ren had left and hadn’t come back to our room, and I didn’t sleep, nor did I put all my clothes back in the dresser. Instead, I’d created myself a little bug-out bag, stashing about two days’ worth of clothing in the bag and placing it back in the closet just in case we ran out of time.

Then I’d waited.

Part of me had expected Ren to return, but the other half knew that what I had planned cut him deep and a few hours wasn’t going to stitch the hole I dug open in him back together. I hadn’t meant for everything to turn out the way it did. I just wasn’t . . .

God, I just wasn’t thinking straight.

Now that I was here, all alone, with nothing but my own stupid head to keep myself company, I realized that the whole take off running with no idea where to go was incredibly stupid and cruel. So damn cruel, not just to Ren but also to Tink.

Ren had been right about what my leaving would’ve done to them. It would’ve been terrible, and even though I’d had the best of intentions, in all honestly, they were panicked intentions.

I gave way to panic, and the idea of running was at least doing something other than sitting around and twiddling my thumbs.

Or getting stabbed.

You’ve been running without me this entire time.

It took several hours for me to work through the denial of that statement. Had I been running from him this entire time? I didn’t want to believe it, because it was so terrible.

God, it sucked ass to admit it to myself, but it was true. Even from the beginning I’d made everything exceptionally difficult for Ren. It wasn’t because I wanted to be a challenge. When I met Ren, he was the first guy I was interested in after the death of Shaun. I’d been so closed off, so awkward at being interested in a guy. Things had been easier between us when I finally opened up to him—when I finally allowed myself to fall in love with Ren.

But then I found out I was the Halfling.

That was when I started lying to him—when I started running. Maybe not physically but definitely mentally. I hadn’t told him about seeing the Prince outside Cafe Du Monde. I’d hid the truth of what I was until I virtually blurted it out to him on the damn street. Ren had been trained since birth and he was a member of the Elite. He knew how to take care of himself, but I’d blindsided him, bringing his biggest fear to life. Not only that, but I’d constantly cut him out of decisions. It wasn’t like I had to include him in everything. Lord knows Ren never expected that from me or anyone, but when you are with someone, when you love them, you include them.

You’re a team.

You don’t hide things from them. You sure as hell don’t lie, and you don’t compare them to a monster.