Page 61

Nervous energy filled me, something I felt many times before, but there was a razor sharp quality to it this time. Knowing that we were about to face the most dangerous fae known brought the entire world into stark clarity.

Everything had changed since the last time I walked Royal, but in a way, nothing had. I was still the same Ivy who walked this street and entered the house all those weeks ago, prepared to fight and to die to protect the city. I was still her. Yeah, I carried a little more baggage with me. Yeah, I’d been lied to and betrayed, but I was stronger. I was more prepared, and I was ready to protect this city again.

Stepping onto the sidewalk of Royal was like . . . God, it was like finally coming home. It had been so long since I walked these streets. Too long. I glanced down the street, taking in the old buildings and sidewalks crowded with tourists and locals, and I listened to the laughter and shouts, the blaring horns and distant whirling sirens.


This was home—my home, our home. I wasn’t going to let some Queen Bitch bring some kind of army through this gateway, laying waste to this city. Hell no. Resolve filled me.

“I’ll be damned if I let her win.”

“What?” Ren asked, stepping up on the curb.

Turning to him, I smiled a little. “Just thinking out loud.”

He slid me a sidelong glance as the brothers passed us. People stopped and stared as they rounded the corner to what used to be called Hospital Street. Couldn’t blame them. The two were well over six feet and looked like Viking conquerors.

Faye and Kalen followed us as we trailed behind the brothers. The house was just as creepy and rundown as I remembered, but a Summer fae stood outside this time, guarding the building.

That was different.

Strange days.

Walking inside, there was no suppressing the shudder the place always brought on, even with the rooms full of people. Miles was already there, as were several Order members.

So relieved to see Jackie, I shot forward and gave her a quick hug. It obviously surprised her, because it took a moment for her to return the gesture.

I turned and looked at Dylan. He stepped back, and I knew he was going to be a no-go on the whole hug thing. “I’m really glad to see you two.”

Jackie eyed me intensely while Dylan stared at my ears. “What happened to you, Ivy?”

“Long story,” I said, aware that Ren was watching us and definitely listening. “But I’m not—”

“Evil?” Jackie suggested. “Halfling or not, you’ve always been a little evil.”

“No truer words have ever been spoken,” Dylan said.

My lips twitched into a small grin. “True.”

“Freaking sucks about Daniel though.” Jackie shook her head. “I wouldn’t have believed it, but . . .”

“But there have been too many unexplained Order deaths in the last couple of weeks, most of them being found dead at home.” A muscle ticked along Dylan’s jaw. “Skilled members not careless enough to be followed home. Once we talked to Miles, it just started to make sense.”

“Daniel’s wife?”

Jackie’s shoulders tensed. “No one has heard from her in weeks. We don’t know if she’s dead or not, but we checked out their house after talking to Miles. Her purse was there, so was her phone, but she wasn’t.”

“That’s not a good sign,” I said.

“Nope,” Dylan agreed. “We don’t know if she was aware of what Daniel was doing or not, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. We’ve lost over half of our active members here.”

A ball of emotion filled my throat. Their deaths were so unfair, so freaking senseless. “So, the city is really screwed if the Queen comes back through this gateway with a horde of Otherworld creatures?”

Jackie nodded.

“Hey.” Ren nodded at the two as he curled an arm around my shoulders. Dipping his head, he kissed my cheek, and my heart squeezed in the best possible way. I loved all those quick kisses, and I’d never grow tired of them. I just hoped I had a chance to prove that. “I’m going to head upstairs.”

“Okay. Be right up.”

Ren walked ahead, scoping out the interior. Nothing had changed since the last time we’d been in here. At least as far as I remembered, but the air . . . yeah, the air was heavier. I didn’t think it had anything to do with the doorway being here, but more so with all the death that had occurred the first time it had been opened.

I had a horrible feeling tonight we’d be adding to that heaviness.


Stiffening at the sound of the Prince’s voice, I turned. Tension seeped into my muscles as my gaze met his.

He stopped in front of me. “Are you ready for tonight?”

I lifted a shoulder. “As ready as I can be. Are you?”

There was a twitch to his lips, as if he wished to smile but didn’t know how. “As ready as I can be.”

“Cool.” I started to turn away.

“I’m sorry,” he said, speaking those two words in a low voice.

My breath caught as I faced him once more. “What?”

“I am sorry. I know my apology means nothing. The things I’ve done to you, the things I tried to do . . .” He trailed off, his voice hoarse. “I do not ask for your forgiveness for things I could never forgive myself for, but I am sorry for the pain and terror I’ve caused—”

“Stop,” I rasped out, briefly closing my eyes. The bitter tangle of emotions curled around my heart. “I . . . I appreciate the apology. I do, but I . . .” I thought back to what felt like a lifetime ago. “I once was under the compulsion of a fae. How I’d ended up under a compulsion had been my fault. I’d been stupid and I paid for that. Completely under their glamour, I’d let fae into a house where they killed everyone who was important to me. So I know what it feels like to have no control and do things you never would, but I . . .”

“I understand,” he simply said after a long moment.

My gaze shot to his, and I thought . . . I thought that maybe he did understand what I couldn’t even put into words. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand he hadn’t been in control. He’d even been under a spell, devoid of conscious choice or will, and I guessed that was worse than anything Ren and I had suffered. I understood that, but it was still hard. That I could understand how he became the Prince that terrified me, how he hadn’t been responsible, but all that knowledge didn’t change the fact that forgiving and forgetting may never be in the cards.

The Prince gave me a curt bow and then he stepped around me, heading upstairs, and I was left standing there, staring at the place where he once was.

Sucking in a sharp breath, I pushed that mess of memories and emotions associated with my capture and headed upstairs. Now was not the time to dwell on any of that. I needed to have a clear head if I had any chance of surviving this night.

Miles followed me up, and I made my way down the narrow, dark hallway. A wave of goosebumps spread over my skin as I neared the entrance to the bedroom.

As I walked through the door and found Ren standing by a boarded-up window near a wooden chair, my heart started kicking around in my chest, doing an erratic dance.

“It’s kind of like we came full circle, isn’t it?” I said to Ren.

He nodded as he eyed the sealed closet door—the gateway. Right now it just looked like any normal door in an old-as-hell house with a white ceramic handle that most likely jiggled. There was a gap between the top of the door and the frame. It sat slightly crooked.

“It is.” Ren paused as a lopsided grin appeared. “In a really messed up way.”

Curling an arm around him, I didn’t care what it looked like to the others. I wanted to feel his tattooed skin under mine for as long as I could.

I didn’t know how much time had passed. Maybe a handful of minutes. Maybe an hour. It felt like time had slowed down to a crawl and also sped up at the same time.

But we didn’t have to wait long.

The Prince stiffened and then turned to the doorway. A strange stillness permeated the room. “It’s time.”

Chapter 34

A shiver snaked its way down my spine, and my hands automatically went to the iron stakes on my thighs. Tiny hairs rose on my body. All around me, people began to react to the peculiar tension seeping into the house.