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I was sure he made Kyle pay for every death that had taken place.

Part of me was still in a state of disbelief over what Kyle had told me. The Elite were the ones who betrayed the Summer Court simply because they were fae. I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted there to be some reason that would help me understand why the Elite had done what they had. But there was nothing except bigotry and fear.

And all I could hope was that bigotry and fear didn’t extend far into the Order. I knew it probably did, but Kyle had said that Daniel hadn’t wanted to believe that I would betray him. We had a chance.

My fingers curled around the burner phone. I didn’t even remember pulling it out of my pocket, but I’d been holding it for hours now, the device hot in my hands.

Calling Daniel was a huge risk, but one we were going to have to take. He was our only hope when it came to opening the gateways to send the Prince back.

“Hey.” Tink leaned forward, between the seats, his voice low. “I was thinking about something.”

With Tink, it was anyone’s guess about what it could’ve been. I turned to him. “What?”

“Do you think it’s possible that the Order has already discovered who the Halfling is and has them in, I don’t know, protective custody?” he asked.

A muscle thrummed along Ren’s jaw. “The Elite is in San Diego, that much is obvious. If they’ve discovered who the Halfling is, then they wouldn’t be in protective custody.”

Ren was right. The Elite would’ve killed them immediately. They wouldn’t try to keep her safe.

“That’s kind of screwed up,” Tink commented.

“You’re just now realizing this?”

He looked at me. “It’s just wrong.”


Yeah, it was.

Tink sat back, and when I glanced over at Fabian, my gaze met his. “If the Halfling is still alive and not compromised, she will be under the protection of the Summer Court,” he said. “We will not allow harm to come to her.”

“And if she is compromised?”

“Then we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it—if we come to it,” Fabian replied, looking out the window. That was a very different answer than when we started this trip. “Let us hope that is not the case.”

I wasn’t sure how much hoping had worked out for us in the past, but I was willing to give it a try. It couldn’t hurt. We spent the rest of the trip discussing our game plan for once we got to San Diego. According to Faye, Tanner had taken care of lodging. We’d be staying at a rather secluded home, just outside of San Diego, in Del Mar. I had no idea if he knew the owner or if this was some kind of Airbnb thing which made me want to laugh. Faye knew where to retrieve the keys on the property, and despite how serious our visit was, I was excited to learn that it was on a beach. I wanted to walk barefoot in the sand just once.


From there, I’d call Daniel on the burner phone. The kind of phone Tanner provided us was encrypted and untraceable, connecting to wifi instead of cellular towers. That didn’t mean that Daniel couldn’t trace us via the internet if we were using a static IP, so that meant we needed public wifi just to be sure.

And from there, well, all we had was hope.

Hope that Daniel would hear me out and agree to meet with us. Hope that they had some idea of where the Prince was, and hope that we weren’t too late.

We reached San Diego around dinnertime and stopped at a fast food restaurant that had free wifi to make the call and grab something to eat.

Parked in the back of the lot, I stayed in the car with Ren while the rest went into the restaurant. Tink was going to grab me, not one but two, orders of chicken fries, and I was happy to report that I was really, really looking forward to devouring them.

I hadn’t had any cravings since the last one, so that was good, I thought.

“You ready to do this?” Ren’s gaze met mine. He was leaning back in the driver’s seat, his arm resting along the back of my seat.

Nodding, I drew in a shallow breath. “Ready as I’ll ever be.” My fingers hovered over the number pad. I knew Tanner’s number by heart. “What if he doesn’t answer?”

“Then you keep calling until he does.”

I nodded again. My stomach was full of knots. What if Kyle lied? What if Daniel wasn’t even in San Diego? There were so many risks.

Ren touched my cheek, drawing my attention. His gaze searched mine. “You got this.”

“I do.” I tried to smile, but it felt weird. “Daniel’s like . . .”


I gave a little shake of my head. “He’s like a father to me. I know that sounds stupid—”

“It doesn’t.” He smoothed his thumb over my cheek. “Not at all.”

The smile came easier this time. “It’s just that when Kyle said that Daniel didn’t believe that I’d betrayed the Order, it really meant something to me, but what if he does think that? I mean, Daniel can be a big prick, but it would be . . . it would hurt.”

Ren leaned toward me, kissing the center of my forehead. “I wish I could say something that would make it better if that’s the case, but there isn’t anything I can say except if he thinks that about you then he doesn’t know you at all.”

Shifting my head, I kissed his lips, and when I pulled back, I had to swallow the sudden knot in my throat. “I need to call him.”

“You do.”

And that’s what I did. Punching in his number, I hit the speaker button and then waited. It rang once, twice, and by the fourth ring, I started to worry that he wasn’t going to answer.

But then he did, on the fifth ring. “What?”

My stomach dropped as I stared at the phone. That was definitely Daniel. Only he would answer an unknown number like that.

I glanced at Ren, and he nodded.

“Daniel?” I said, wincing when my voice cracked. “It’s Ivy.”

My introduction was met with a long beat of silence and then, “You’re alive.”

I blinked. “Yeah, I am. So is Ren.”

“You gonna tell me where you’ve been, what you’ve been doing?” he asked.

“I want to. That’s why I’m calling you. Hoping you’re where I am.”

“And where is that?”

“San Diego.” The phone was going to crack from how tight I was clutching it.

There was another stretch of silence. “Funny. That’s where I am.”

Well, at least that was good news. I guessed. “I know you probably don’t trust me, because God only knows what you think, but I didn’t betray the Order. I’m here to stop the Prince. So is Ren.”

“You don’t know what I’m thinking. That’s probably a good thing, but you better start talking and telling me where in the hell you’ve been.” Daniel paused. “I’m figuring there’s a lot of things you need to tell me, girl.”

There were a lot of things that I needed to tell him, but I started with the most obvious. “I’m the Halfling.”

Daniel was quiet.

“You probably already know that,” I continued, a little breathless. “But I didn’t know, not until the Prince came—well, I actually figured it out right before that. I cut myself with the thorn stake, but I didn’t know until then. I had no idea. Neither did Ren.”

I closed my eyes, hating to say what I had to. “The Prince kidnapped Ren and then me. He held me for a while, but I escaped—we escaped. And if you followed the Prince here then you have to know he didn’t get what he wanted from me.”

“Maybe I know that.” There was a pause. “Maybe not.”

Instinct told me that Daniel knew that the Prince was after another Halfling. “I want to meet with you—just Ren and I. We need to talk.”

“That we do.”

“And by talk I mean we don’t want to walk into a trap, Daniel. We’re on the same side.”

“Why would you think there’d be a trap?”

“Oh, I don’t know.” I opened my eyes and stared at the leafy palms moving in the breeze. “Maybe because an entire convoy of Order and Elite members tried to kill us in Arizona.”