Page 34

I didn’t get to do the last part. There wasn’t a lot of time to process that I was . . . free.

“We’re nearing the gate.” Kalen peered through the open window separating the front of the van.

Sitting beside me on the bench, Ren nodded. “Got it.”

Kalen closed the door, and I exhaled roughly as I ran my hands over the knees of my tactical pants.

“You nervous?” Ren asked quietly.

I started to say no, but then nodded. “A little. Been a while since I even wore a pair of pants like this.”

His gaze flickered over me. “You look damn good in them.”

“Thanks.” I shot him a grin. Truth be told, they were looser than they should’ve been this morning, but it felt good pulling them on.

I quieted when the van eased to a stop, hating that I couldn’t see anything, but both Ren and I tensed. His hand went to the iron dagger at his waist and mine went to where I had one secured to my thigh. Ren had the thorn stake on the inside of his boot.

“Hi there,” we heard Dane speak. “We have an order for—”

“What the hell?” exclaimed an unfamiliar voice. Crap.

Ren unhooked his dagger just as we heard a car door open, followed by a grunt of pain. Someone cursed and then there was silence.

We looked at each other, knowing it could mean one thing or a really bad thing.

We had our answer quickly.

The back door swung open, revealing Kalen with a man slung over his shoulder. Ren shot off the bench, reaching for him.

“One fae and this human,” Kalen said as he and Ren laid the human male down in the back of the van. “He’s out, but not dead. Glamoured. Figured we’d keep him in here just in case anyone comes along and sees him passed out in the building.”

“Good call.” Ren rolled the human onto his back. “And the fae?”

“Recognized us immediately.” Kalen’s jaw hardened. “Took him out.” He looked over to where I sat. “We’re heading up to the house now. You guys ready?”

I nodded. “Yeppers.”

Kalen tilted his head and then shook it. Closing the door, the van rumbled to life once more as Ren took his seat beside me while I stared at the unconscious man.

He was lucky to be alive.

“You know what?” I said, blowing out a long breath. “If it were the Order conducting this mission, would they have knocked him out or killed him?”

Ren didn’t answer for a long moment. “Guess it would depend on who it was.”

“Yeah.” That didn’t sit well, because even though I knew we weren’t supposed to kill humans, it happened. A lot. “I suppose.”

As the van slowed to a stop once more, Ren reached over and curved his hand around the nape of my neck. “Hey.”

I let him turn my gaze to his. “Yeah?”

“I love you.” He kissed me then, moving his lips over mine in a way that had my toes curling inside my boots. “You’re going to be careful?”

I rested my forehead against his. “Are you?”

“Yeah, because I want to get you in bed at least one more time before we have to hit the road.” He nipped at my lower lip. “You like the sound of that?”

I did, so I kissed him back. “Then you better make sure you don’t get yourself hurt.”

He grinned against my mouth. “We got this.”

“We do,” I whispered, pulling away from him when I heard the driver’s side door open and close.

Moving off the bench, we were careful not to step on the poor dude on the floor as we crouched at the back door. Seconds later, the door slid open and we hopped out into the sunlight.

There wasn’t any time to waste or to think about what I had to do and what was going to be needed from me, because I knew already. It was ingrained in my bones and muscles. I’d fought and hunted a thousand times.

Today was no different.

I had this.

Ren and I rounded the back of the van, right behind Kalen, just in time to see a tall female fae run down the wide, stone steps. Dane met her there. I barely saw him move, but he got her. She stumbled back, shock registering on her face for a moment before her features crumpled into themselves.

I shot up the steps, my heart pounding with . . . actual anticipation for battle. It had been so long, but that mixture of fear and excitement could be a heady, dangerous mix. Or it could sharpen the senses.

And my senses were sharp.

Curling my hand into a fist, I banged it off the double bronze doors and then stepped back. I knew without looking behind me that the guys were right there.

The door inched open, and there was a glimpse of silvery skin. All I needed to see. I planted my booted foot into the center of the door, kicking it wide open. The fae behind the door slid back, losing his balance. He went down as Ren flew past me. The fae was dead before he could sound the alarm.

But the alarm didn’t need to be sounded.

As I scanned the wide open foyer, I saw several fae—at least a dozen of them lounging about, standing and talking in the atrium style room, or watching TV from the rec room behind the spiral staircase.

With this many fae, Marlon had to be here.

“Oh, look.” Ren rose with fluid grace. “A welcome party.”

“Yay.” Dane flipped a dagger—an iron dagger—in his fae hands. He, like Kalen, was wearing gloves since the mere touch of iron singed their skin.

The welcome party did that creepy hiss thing really pissed off fae were known for. Then they charged.

There was a tiny part of me that wondered if maybe I wasn’t ready, but pure adrenaline coursed through my veins, years of training kicking in. Instinct took over.

Striding across the Spanish tile, I unsheathed the daggers at my thighs and spun, slamming the very sharp end into the chest of the fae on my right. Yanking the dagger out, I whirled and took out the fae on my left before the first one finished collapsing into itself.

Another charged me, and I dipped low, kicking out and knocking the fae’s legs out from underneath them. I shifted, stabbing the fae in his stomach. Popping up, I darted to the right, just missing what would’ve been a mean uppercut. I caught that fae in the back, right between the shoulder blades. Then I spun, not even out of breath.

Ren caught a fae with his hand around its neck. Those bright green eyes of his were focused on me as I shoved the dagger deep into the gut of the fae he was holding. “So freaking hot.”

Flushing, I grinned.

“If you guys are done screwing each other with your eyes, head up here,” Kalen called from halfway up the stairs.

“Give us one more second.” Ren winked at me as he pivoted, slamming his shoulder into the fae rushing him from behind.

Rolling my eyes, I took off for the steps, taking them two at a time. Kalen reached the second floor, coming face to face with a very tall, very bald fae. Unease powered down my spine. The fae looked like one of the Knights—

“Shit,” he muttered, and a second later, the fae lifted a hand. The dagger ripped free from Kalen’s grasp and slammed into the nearby wall, where the blade trembled from the impact.

An Ancient.

Yep. He was one of the Knights that had come through the gateway the night the Prince had entered our world.

“You picked the wrong side as usual, Summer fae.” The Ancient stalked forward just as footsteps pounded up the stairs behind me. “And you will die for it.”

The Ancient swung his arm to the side, and without even touching Kalen, he threw him into the wall. Drywall cracked and plumes of plaster flew into the air. Kalen dropped to his knees, obviously stunned.

The Ancient turned to me, cocking his head to the side. Curiosity marked his features at first, and then, understanding. “Halfling?”

“Hi!” I chirped, launching into the air. I spun, kicking out and catching the Ancient in his stomach. I landed in a crouch as the Ancient stumbled and lost his balance, going down on one knee. The surprise that filled his gaze mirrored what I felt.

A normal kick like that would’ve taken down a human for hours. It would have stunned a normal fae, maybe knocked it to the ground, but an Ancient? It would’ve made them stumble.

It had knocked the Ancient down.