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“Doesn’t matter now, does it?” Merle said, turning with a cup of coffee in her hands. I looked around, not seeing Brighton. “Our Prince isn’t interested in putting a seed in your belly any longer.”

I groaned, sinking further into the couch as Tink laughed under his breath. Ren, however, didn’t find the comment nearly as amusing.

Neither did the Prince. “No. Instead, we have a powerful Queen that will be close to impossible to kill and we don’t nearly have enough time to plan and prepare for her attempt to open the gateway.”

Merle smiled at the Prince. “Ah yes, that is a problem, but not nearly as bad as all the gateways springing open all at once.”

Ren sighed. “Both sound pretty terrible. We all can agree on that. When do you think she will arrive here?”

The Prince did not sit or eat. He stood behind the chair Fabian sat in, arms folded. “She will most likely make it here by late tonight. She will not waste time, not when she knows that she will face both Fabian and I.”

I exhaled roughly. “So, we have what? Twelve hours, give or take a few?”

“That would be correct. It won’t be long.”

Ren stood. “Then we need to get ready. Rest up as much as we can. All of us.”

“And then what?” Tink asked.

“I’ll see who is still left in the Order that we can trust,” Miles spoke from where he stood by the buffet of food no one was touching. “I’m hoping there are some that are left.”

I remembered the look on Dylan’s face when Val betrayed us. I hoped he hadn’t crossed over to the evil side, but I didn’t even know if he was still alive. Or if Jackie was or any of the other Order members I’d known.

“You will have our most skilled warriors,” Tanner said. “Some are already at the gateway. She has not showed yet, but they are there and they are ready.”

“And you have me,” Tink chimed in.

I opened my mouth, but Fabian beat me to it. “You must stay behind.”

My brows lifted. “For once, I agree with you.”

Tink shot from the arm of the couch. “This is bullshit. I can help.”

“I know you can, but if the Queen was to somehow get a hold of you and was able to control you, there would be no hope.” Fabian rose. “We need you to stay as far away from her as possible. We also need you here. That is how you help us.”

“You know I can help. You know how strong and powerful I am.” Tink’s jaw was as hard as granite, but for once I kept my mouth shut.

“The Queen was able to control me because I had been wounded in battle. I was weakened and she took full advantage of that.” The Prince’s voice was heavy as he spoke. “And because of that, I became a monster. She would do the same to you. She knows what it would mean to have a brownie under her control. We cannot risk that. You cannot.”

Folding his arms, Tink fell silent.

“Tink,” I called out, leaning forward.

He didn’t move for a moment and then he turned to me. “I know you want me to stay back.”

“I do. We need you to.” I met his angry stare. “Because if we fail, we need someone to protect the fae here. They will be the only thing left between the Queen and her destroying the world with her army. You will be our last hope.”

Tink stared at me. “Like Obi-Wan?”

My lips twitched. “Yeah, like him.”

Tanner twisted in his chair so he could see Tink. “You will defend us. We need you here.”

His chest puffed up. “I . . . I will do that. I will make sure nothing happens to those here.” He shot to my side and kneeled so we were at eye level. “But you will come back. All of you.” He curled his lip in Ren’s direction. “Even him.”

“We will,” I said, making a promise I was going to do every damn thing in my ability to keep. “We will come back.”

I closed the door behind us and leaned against it as Ren walked over to the dresser, unhooking the daggers along his hip. I was quiet as I watched him, but my heart was pounding.

I loved this man.

I loved him because he chased when I ran. I loved him because he never gave up on me, not when I was being held captive and not when I’d closed myself off, shutting everyone out. I loved him because he was a good man, and if I wanted to say screw all of this and leave right now, he’d be right there with me. I loved him because I knew that he would be standing next to me later, ready to fight by my side.

I just loved him.

When he finished unloading what would have been an alarming number of weapons to anyone else, he turned to me.

We needed to sleep the entire day.

We had to, because we needed to be well-rested and then some for what we were going to face tonight.

Neither of us spoke as our gazes collided and connected. There were no words. There didn’t need to be. Intent filled those moss-green eyes. My breath caught as raw emotion swelled in my throat. Pushing away from the door, I walked over to him.

Ren gripped my hips, lifting me clean off the floor. I wrapped my legs around his lean waist. His strong hands gripped my rear as he brought my lips to his. There was a wild, out-of-control quality to the way he kissed me. It was needy and demanding, breathtaking and desperate as he rocked me against his hips. I moaned into his kiss as I grabbed at his shirt, wanting it off and wanting it off now.

Ren put me down, bending slightly as I pulled his shirt off. I went for his pants, and he helped, kicking off his shoes and shucking off his pants and briefs in record time.

“Naked,” he growled. “Now.”

I shuddered and then did as he ordered, stripping out of my clothes. He grew impatient, helping with the shoes and pants, and within minutes, I was naked and on my back, and Ren’s mouth was moving over mine once more. His hard length rocked against me, and I clutched his shoulders, moaning as he nipped at my chin and the side of my neck.

What we did in those moments . . .

It was fast and hard and beautiful. He was over me and then inside me. I arched against him, throbbing and aching as he took complete control. Lust and something far more powerful consumed me as his hips moved against mine, deep and slow at first.

His restraint broke and he began to thrust deeper, harder, and I’d never felt fuller, more desperate for more as our bodies moved frantically. Each deep, hard plunge drove up the intensity until it was at a feverish pace. My legs tightened around him, and then that exquisite feeling deep within me coiled and coiled. My head spun as he moved faster, grinding his hips against mine as he gripped my chin, keeping my mouth with his.

And then I broke apart, shattering into a million little pieces as I cried into his kiss. Thrown so high by the tight, mind-numbing waves of pleasure, I didn’t think I could take any more, but I did. Over and over as he rose onto his knees and lifted me up, driving into me with such reckless abandon that I thought I would die. Snaking an arm around my waist, he lifted me onto my knees and into his lips. He thrust once more as his arms folded around me, sealing my body to his as he came, his large body shuddering.

My muscles were limp and useless by the time he lowered me down so I was half spread across his chest, and then neither of us moved for a long time as we struggled to get our breathing under control.

It was me who broke the silence. “That was . . .”

His chest rose with a heavy breath. “I know.”

I kissed the slick skin of his chest as I let my eyes drift shut, snuggling close to him.



“Tonight—once the Queen is gone? I want to go back to my place. I want us to sleep in my bed. I want to wake up tomorrow in my bed with you.”

I smiled even though my stomach was filled with knots, chasing away the languid bliss. Planning for later was amazing, but it was also scary as hell. “I’d like that.”



Ren pulled me closer to his side. “Good.”

I tried to smile again, but I couldn’t. Not when balls of dread and unease were piling atop each other in my stomach. Would we have a tonight?

Would we have a tomorrow?

After sleeping most of the day and resting as much as possible, our crew minus Tink arrived at the house next to the infamous LaLaurie Mansion just after seven. We climbed out on Royal, because there was no way that SUV was going to make it down the narrow road without taking out tourists.