Page 37

Come to think of it, the Summer Prince was right.

Grabbing the handle of the large suitcase, Tink looked over at Fabian. “Our last resort. Meaning this suitcase is not to be opened unless the shit has gone so far south we’re up to our necks in fuckery.”

Ren nudged me. “Uh, what do you think is in the suitcase?”

“I have no idea, but I’m thinking I probably should find out.” I started toward him, but the doors opened and sunlight poured in. Just like earlier today, I was startled for a second to know that I could just walk right out of here.

And that’s what everyone was doing. I followed Ren outside to where Faye and her crew loaded up into one of the SUVs, Fabian’s consul got in what appeared to be a fancy Porsche of some sort, which left us with an SUV that was the size of a small tank.

I didn’t even attempt to take the keys from Ren.

After loading up the back with the bags Ren and I had hurriedly packed before we left the room, I walked around to the front passenger seat. Tink trailed after me. “Do you think the Prince has already found the Halfling?”

“I hope not.” I opened up the door. “Because that sure as hell complicates things.”

“It does more than complicate things.” Fabian watched me closely. “If the Winter Prince has found her and does what we’ve feared, we’ll have to handle it.”

I stiffened.

Ren’s fingers coasted over my waist as he walked by. “We will.”

Handle it.

I knew what that meant. I hated it. Because it could easily be me in that situation—it could be me being handled, just like Merle had said when I first arrived here. But if the Prince had found the Halfling and managed to do the deed, we had to stop the baby from being born, and I knew the crew we were traveling with wasn’t going to be down with having a very uncomfortable conversation with this Halfling and hoping she volunteered to do what would be the right thing in this case.

I watched Fabian walk over to the other side of the SUV and then my gaze roamed over to the other cars.

I knew what they’d do. They’d take the woman out, no questions asked.

The idea of killing an innocent woman and her child sickened me. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want any of us to do that.

So that left us with only one option.

“We better find her first,” I said, filling with steely resolve. “And make damn sure she doesn’t get pregnant.”

Chapter 21

We hadn’t even gotten out of the state of Louisiana and I was already ready to duct tape both Tink and Fabian’s mouths shut. A few hours into the trip and I’d learned two things.

Fabian could make everything sound like he was insulting me. And Ren had this magical ability to tune everyone out and focus on driving.

Rubbing my forehead, I stared out the window as we cruised on down I-10. The outside was a blur of buildings and trees, and somehow the conversation in the back seat had moved on to me and my hair.

“I don’t think she can honestly brush it,” Tink was saying. He’d leaned forward so he was halfway between the seats. “Because when she does, it just turns into a giant poof.”

Counting to ten, I slid a glance over at Ren. A faint smile played across his lips, and if he hadn’t been driving, I might’ve punched him.

“So she doesn’t comb it all?” Fabian asked, sounding genuinely confused.

I looked over my shoulder. “I comb my hair, you assholes.”

Ren snorted. “I’ve seen her do it. When it’s wet.”

“Let’s talk about something other than my hair, okay?” I suggested before I climbed into the back seat like a rabid spider monkey and strangled all of them.

“Like what?” Tink sat back. “I’m bored.”

“You’re bored already and we have like another twenty-some hours left,” I reminded him.

Tink groaned. “I’m not going to make it.”

“I could entertain you,” Fabian suggested. “We could—”

“Yeah, no,” I jumped in, because I had a feeling his version of entertaining Tink wasn’t PG-13 and I didn’t want to witness any of that. My gaze zeroed in on the Summer Prince. He was obviously into Tink, but the fae were pretty much into anything that walked and had a hole. A wave of protectiveness seized me. “Let’s talk about you, Fabian.”

The Summer Prince stretched an arm along the back of the seat and inclined his head. “I have no problem with that.”

“Of course not,” Ren muttered under his breath.

I fought a smile. “How old are you?”

The Summer Prince raised a fair brow. He looked like he was in his late twenties, but instinct told me that wasn’t his real age. “Older than some of the trees planted along this road.”

So my suspicions were correct. I glanced at Ren and saw that he was listening. “Then that means you feed, because you sure as hell aren’t aging like Tanner.”

“I am the Prince. All of the royal court feeds.”

“Really?” I said, my hand balling in my lap. That was something else that Tanner had not disclosed.

“You don’t like hearing that.” A smirk appeared. “And yet you fed to save your life.”

“It wasn’t a choice I made,” I said.

Tink leaned forward again. “What Fabian is leaving out is that they have people who volunteer to be fed on. They’re not being forced.”

My brows lifted. “Volunteered or under a compulsion? I remember the people Drake had in that house. Some looked like they wanted to be there, but I doubt any of them knew what they were getting themselves into.”

A shadow crossed Fabian’s expression. “Those who allow us the honor of feeding from them do so under no compulsion. They know what we are. They choose to help us as we help them.”

I didn’t believe that for a second. “And how do you help them?”

“In my community, we protect the mortals who allow us to feed. They want for nothing. Money. Healthcare. Security.”

Sort of reminded me of escorts, but I figured I’d keep that part to myself. “And they know what you guys are capable of? How you can drain them to the point they turn into mindless, psychotic creatures?”

His eyes narrowed. “We never take more than we need. If any of my subjects were to, they’d be executed on the spot.”

“Really?” Ren’s gaze flicked to the rearview mirror. “That’s pretty hardcore for a race of beings that has always put themselves first.”

“As if you know anything about our race,” Fabian replied. “We have been here far longer than you know. Think about that.”

“I’m thinking about it,” he replied dryly.

“You knew nothing of the Summer Court or that our courts have taken up residency here. There is a reason for that. We do not kill. We do not abuse mortals. Believe it or not, we view them as equals.”

“I know it sounds hard to believe,” Tink chimed in. “But he’s telling the truth.”

“How do you know?” I asked, eyeing Tink.

He met my gaze. “Because why would he lie?”

“Oh, I don’t know. So we don’t kill him?” I offered.

The Summer Prince snorted. “I am not easy to kill.”

“Yeah, back to that. If you’re the perfect example of a non-homicidal fae who loves and cherishes humans, then why won’t you tell us how to weaken Drake?”

He laughed, and the sound was too cold for a Summer Prince. “You don’t trust me. Why in the world would I trust you? You may be a halfling and he may be Boy Wonder—”

“Boy wonder?” Ren wrinkled his nose.

“But the Order has already betrayed us once,” Fabian continued, his stare hard. “The fact that we are working with you now to stop the Winter Prince puts me and my people at an incredible disadvantage. Do you think I chose to ride with you just because of him?” He glanced at Tink. “Someone needs to keep an eye on you two and I will not risk any of my consul in doing so.”

Tink didn’t look at all bothered by that statement.