Page 54

I stiffened as my hand tightened on the iron dagger. “There was never a halfling here, was there?”

“No, you silly little bitch. Perhaps there might be one here.” She lifted a shoulder in an oddly dainty shrug. “I have no idea. You went into hiding and we needed to draw you out.” The Queen laughed when Ren cursed under his breath. “After all, do you think we would’ve been so obvious about our moves?”

I knew it.

Dammit, I knew it.

We’d all been played, and we should’ve known better. Now we were trapped here, all of us, with Drake or whoever he was, and a damn Queen.

“Why San Diego?” Liz demanded. “Why here?”

“Because it has the largest number of Order members. No other city has more in one location,” Daniel answered. “You take out the San Diego branch, it will have a crippling ripple effect.”

It happened so fast.

Several Order members stepped forward, brandishing their iron daggers. Kalen shouted a warning, but it was too late. They gripped the shoulders of other members as they dragged the blade across their throats.

Horror seized me as I spun around to see Daniel drag a blade along Liz’s throat. “No!” I screamed, and I didn’t even know why. It was too late.

Liz’s hands flew to her throat, trying to stanch the flow of blood as she stumbled and then dropped to her knees. Only a handful of seconds had passed and then she joined the other Order members on the floor.

My wide gaze swung to Daniel as my heart broke. I couldn’t believe it. Daniel had betrayed us—all of us. My mouth opened, but I didn’t have words as I stared at the man who was the closest thing to a father to me. This was like Val all over again, but worse, so much worse.

“Son of a bitch,” croaked Miles, and for the first time in my life, I saw real emotion in his face as he stared at Daniel in horror and disbelief. “How? How could you do this?”

“Because this is a war we will not win.” Daniel wiped his blade on his pants, cleaning it of blood. His gaze found mine. “Did you never once question why I was so accepting of what you had become? Or what you did to Kyle? I knew he’d gone after you. And I knew that one or both of you would kill him.”

The next breath I took got stuck. I’d questioned it. We both did, but we wanted hope. Stupid. We’d all been so damn stupid.

“Right now, all across the city, Order members will be meeting the same fate. And back in New Orleans? The same, according to plan. But what I didn’t plan on was a brownie.” The Queen’s lips curled, baring razor-sharp teeth. “Where is it?”

Drawing in a shallow breath, I pushed aside everything with Daniel and met her gaze head-on. I’d have to deal with that fresh betrayal later—if there was a later. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Okay. You want to play a game. I love games.” She clasped her hands together. “This is a game I like to call, kill everyone. Except you. I still need you, but the rest are about to die.” Her gaze found Faye. “Starting with you.”

Faye’s chest rose with a sharp breath, but she held her ground as Kalen stepped to stand next to her.

“Or maybe not you.” The Queen drifted forward. “Maybe him.”

My heart lurched. She was staring at Ren. “If you touch one hair on his head, you’ll regret it.”

“Somehow I doubt that.” She moved faster than I could track. A second later she was standing behind Ren, her long fingers encircling his neck. “Do you like this game, Ivy?”

Ren’s jaw locked down as he held very still, meeting my gaze. My heart was pounding fast, too fast as I lifted the dagger to my own throat. I didn’t hesitate. Not for a second. “If you hurt him, I will slit my own throat and then you’ll really have to find another halfling. How do you like that game?”

Her lips thinned as she tilted her head to the side. “You’d kill yourself to save him?”

“In a heartbeat.”

“Ivy,” Ren gasped out.

Disbelief crowded her face. “You wouldn’t—”

The sound of plastic wheels gliding over wood floors drew all of our attention toward the door. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first. I blinked, thinking I had to be seeing things, but my eyes weren’t lying to me.

Tink’s suitcase rolled across the floor, sliding past the Prince and stopping just short of Fabian. Then Tink zoomed into the room, flying as fast as a little missile, toward the suitcase. Gripping the zipper in his tiny hands, he dragged it along the seam. One side of the suitcase swung open and hundreds of troll dolls spilled out, scattering over the floor in a sea of neon blue and hot pink hair.

“What the . . . ?” I stumbled back a step.

The Queen cocked her head to the side as she held Ren.

Everyone stared, because there were hundreds of troll dolls rolling across the floor, through blood, and yeah, it was really bizarre.

Flying forward, Tink hovered above his sea of troll dolls and lifted his arms. “Rise up, my little babies.”

The dolls trembled on the floor and then shook. All of them. Their little plastic bodies rocking, and then their bodies . . . weren’t plastic anymore. Their legs bent. Their arms moved. Their heads turned, and their eyes were the palest blue, like all creatures from the Otherworld.

I had no words.

The troll dolls rose onto their stubby legs. Their mouths opened and a high keening screech erupted from them, raising the tiny hairs all along my arms.

Well, I was going to have a life’s worth of nightmares because of this.

“Holy crap,” I whispered. “Instead of being the Night King, he’s the Troll King.”

The dolls’ heads turned toward the Queen.

Letting out a shriek of rage, the Queen threw Ren aside, sending him sliding several feet across the floor. He went down on one knee as I shot to his side, grabbing his hand and hauling him up.

“We need to get out of here,” he said, his wide eyes on the dolls. “Now.”


Holding tight to his hand, I shouted for Tink as the dolls stomped across the floor, racing toward the Queen. Tink flew to my shoulder as I spun toward Faye and Kalen. The male fae met my gaze and nodded.

The dolls reached the Queen, their little hands clutching at her dress. They climbed up her legs, dozens of them.

She shrieked, plucking one off her thigh. Blood covered its little mouth. They bit? She crushed it in her hand as she screamed in rage. Dozens more were climbing up her, reaching her stomach, digging in with their hands and . . . mouths. The Knights started toward her, but were also overcome by dolls. They swallowed them whole, like a carpet of flesh-eating troll dolls.

I was going to need therapy—years of therapy.

Ren started toward the door and Tink hopped from my shoulder to his, but hands landed on my back, jerking me away from Ren. My hand slipped free as I was spun around. I came face to face with Daniel.

“I can’t let you go,” he said, his grip digging in. “I’m sorry, Ivy.”

I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing, but my chest ached and my eyes burned as my grip tightened on the dagger.

“Daniel,” I said, my voice hoarse.

His gaze met mine a second before I slammed the dagger deep into the center of his chest. Daniel’s mouth opened, but there were no words. None. I saw his eyes dull over.

Exhaling roughly, I let go of the dagger as I blinked back hot tears. I jerked as another hand touched my arm. I turned to find Miles beside me. “We need to go,” he said. “Now.”

Unable to speak, I got my feet moving. We raced across the floor, our feet slipping and sliding in the blood. At the doorway, I realized Fabian wasn’t with us. He was standing in front of Drake, speaking too fast for me to understand.

The Queen was in the center of the room, spinning as she sent evil troll dolls in every direction.

Fabian picked up a fallen dagger. I stopped, heart somewhere in my throat. It was iron. It wouldn’t kill Drake at—

Fabian didn’t stab the Winter Prince.

He sliced open his own palm, drawing blood, and he lifted that bloodied palm, dragging it down the center of Drake’s face and pressing it against his mouth.