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I’d screwed up, more than once, and long before the Prince had dug his claws in me.

Now the gulf between us truly seemed unsurpassable.

No wonder Ren felt the way he did. We never really got the chance to have normalcy in our relationship. To go out on dates and spend lazy weekends at home, exploring each other and inevitably getting on each other’s nerves. We hadn’t gotten the chance to have normal fights, about what to eat or if we wanted more in the future. We didn’t get the chance to build any amount of trust, which was why I was amazed by how accepting and patient he’d been up until a few hours ago. We were still . . . new at us, and we never got a chance to fully take off and become anything.

Everything had been rocky in the beginning, ragged in the middle, and now . . . at possibly the end . . . it was a catastrophe waiting to happen.

We were broken.

It wasn’t all on me. Ren taking part in that compulsion and allowing me to feed on him wasn’t a small misdeed. I got why he did it. I even understood it, but it still happened and it was still between us. But other than that? I was woman enough to know it was on me.

And I had no idea if it was fixable or if Ren wanted to repair the damage, but I did know that it wouldn’t matter if Ren ended up killed or if the Prince was somehow successful when it came to getting himself a bouncing baby. Our relationship was the least of our worries. Not that it didn’t feel like my chest was being cracked open and my heart spooned out of me. It did. It hurt just as bad as getting stabbed in the back.

I needed to focus, though. I needed to get my shit straight before I could even think about getting my house in order.

The Prince was going to find me. Eventually. Because at the moment, I was an easier target for him than to find another halfling somewhere in the world, especially since the Elite made it their duty to straight-up murder any they came across.

For the whole baby Armageddon to work, the baby-making between the Prince and I had to be consensual. He had to know that was never, ever going to happen, so what could the Prince hope to accomplish? The only reason he’d gotten me to agree to stay with him, to be with him, was to free Ren.

He had collateral.

And Drake still did.

It was in the wee hours of the morning when it struck me that I’d been wrong about the Prince killing Ren on sight, and that realization was what had me pacing the room until the sun began to rise.

The Prince wouldn’t kill Ren. Oh no, he would use him against me, just like he’d done before. The Prince would do the same with Tink if he discovered his presence. He still had the means to control me. All he needed was to get his hands on one of them.

Stopping at the window, I lifted my gaze to the fading stars.

I was back to square one.

Even if I left here, the Prince would still go after Ren, because he knew it would draw me back from the ends of the Earth. He’d do what he did before, use Ren, and even though I knew what was at stake, I loved Ren. I couldn’t be the reason he was hurt. Not again. Never again after Shaun. That was my weakness.

Not Ren, but my past.

Shivering, I saw that there were only three options before me, and as the last of the stars twinkled out, I knew running wasn’t one of them.

Find the Crystal and complete the ritual.

Figure out how to weaken the Prince and kill him.

Or go down the path that had stopped Tink from telling me from day one that I was the Halfling. The same path Ren and Tink had yanked me from a few days ago, which was to permanently remove myself from the equation.

I looked like crap as I stared in the mirror, having had only a few hours of sleep and still no sign of Ren. The healthy glow from sucking the essence out of him was lost in the dark shadows under my eyes and the, well, slightly shimmery skin that wasn’t actually a shimmer. Tink had been wrong about that. So had I.

It was a very faint silvery sheen that only looked shimmery. I knew this because I was standing in front of the long mirror attached to the back of the bathroom door, buck ass naked for a while now.

Before my skin started to look like I had covered myself in Urban Decay eye shadow, staring at myself completely naked wasn’t something I did often. I mean, I really didn’t need to check out the many different scars and stretch marks, but here I was.

Why? Because I had a new life motto. It was simple.

Get my shit together.

Since offing myself wasn’t exactly my top choice of options and I couldn’t help find the Crystal, the only next thing for me to do was find a way to weaken the Prince.

I was forcing myself to come to the realization that my body had changed. It was definitely a new skin tone, my features were sharper, more defined, and my ears were pointy, and yeah, my eyes were . . . well, they were kind of cool. I mean, the contrast between the irises and pupils was kind of striking. People would probably think they were fake. I could deal with this. My body had changed but it was still mine.

My gaze dropped below my navel.

I really needed to find a razor. Or a waxer.

But I could deal with this, because I had to deal with this. My appearance may have changed a little. I may have gotten my ass handed to me a few days ago. I may have lost a little of myself when Drake was holding me captive. I may have lost myself along the way, but I was still Ivy.

I twisted to the side and sighed.

And my ass was still not the most attractive thing in the world naked. You’d think the extra fae-ness would’ve given me a nice heart-shaped bottom or something. That I wouldn’t have complained about.


Turning to the other side, I ran my hands over my sides and back, my fingers skating over the rough ridge of a new scar.

I swallowed hard, facing the mirror once more. I kept my eyes open as I smoothed my hands over my waist and then up, over my breasts. My hands stayed there, cupping them.

All of this was . . . it was mine.

My body didn’t belong to the Prince. Or Ren. My body sure as hell didn’t belong to some whacked out prophecy. It was mine—silvery skin, pointy ears, and all the scars were mine.

Realizing that I was basically fondling my own breasts, I rolled my eyes and dropped my hands. I quickly changed, leaving my hair pulled up because I didn’t care about my ears. Nope. Not at all.

Now I was off to find Tink, which wasn’t hard. I just had to look for the largest and loudest table in the cafeteria.

He was practically holding court. All I could see was his shockingly white hair in the center of a dozen or so fairer heads.

Ignoring the way my stomach acids decided to get all bubbly at the scent of cooked meat, I strode into the cafeteria. I was also going to need to invest in some Tums because the not being able to eat thing was stupid. It was one of the reasons I’d gotten my ass kicked.

Heads looked up and followed my progress. Conversations stopped. Whispers started.

My shoulders started to curve inward under the weight of their stares, but I caught myself. Old Ivy would not bow her chin. She would not care.

So new Ivy didn’t care.

Fixing the kind of smirk on my face that always annoyed the piss out of Daniel, I lifted my chin and approached Tink’s table. It wasn’t until I was right there that I realized two things.

Tink was Dixon-less.

Aaand Ren was at the table.

How in the world I hadn’t seen him until then showed that I also really needed to work on my observation skills, but there he was, his russet head bent over a plate of egg whites and what was probably turkey bacon and whole wheat toast.

Because Ren was healthy like that.

Seeing him threw me completely for a loop. He hadn’t gone back to the room when I’d been there, but he was freshly showered. His hair was still damp and he’d changed. He was wearing a black thermal, pushed up to his elbows. I had no idea where he’d showered since he hadn’t returned to the room.

A thousand words rose to the tip of my tongue. I wanted to apologize. I wanted to tell him that he’d been right. I wanted to ask him to help me fix things.

But I said none of those things, because those were things neither of us needed an audience for. Certainly not me, because I would probably break down in ugly, horrible tears.

I had a feeling he knew I was there without looking up. Maybe it was the way the chatter at the table eased off, or it was his weird sixth sense kicking in, but his shoulders tensed and he stopped chewing.