Brave, p.21
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       Brave, p.21

         Part #3 of A Wicked Trilogy series by Jennifer L. Armentrout


  I stared into the back seat. “Can you take out whoever else is in that car? And can you do it without getting killed?”

  Fabian turned his head from Tink to me. He smiled. “I am capable.”

  “Then do it. I’ll provide cover.”

  Before Ren could stop me, I threw the door open and slipped out, keeping low.

  “What the hell are you doing?” demanded Ren as he climbed out of the SUV.

  “Providing the necessary distraction.” I crept along the side of the vehicle. “Stop worrying about me. I can take care of myself. You need to do the same and that’s to get a damn gun.”

  He glared at me for a moment, and then I like to think he realized he wasn’t going to win this argument. “There’s some guns in the back. Ivy—”

  “I’d get one of them just in case this goes south.” Rising, I headed toward the idling sedan and opened fire. “Now, Fabian!”

  The back door blew up and out shot the Summer Prince. He stalked past me, his hair lifting in the sudden hot wind that swirled across the desert floor. I kept firing until I was out, tossing the gun aside as Fabian let out a roar that didn’t even remotely sound human . . . or fae.

  A yellowish glow rippled from his body, encasing him in light until he looked like the sun had risen in the night just for him. In the distance, I heard Ren opening the SUV, but I couldn’t pull my eyes from Fabian.

  Car doors on the sedan flew open. Two—no, three people flew out. I could see them lifting their hands. Guns. Shit.

  The air around Fabian warped and then expanded. Hairs all over my body lifted as I took a step back, away from him just as a burst of unnatural power left his body, shooting across the clearing and slamming into the sedan.

  The car shot up into the air, sending at least two people flying in different directions. They landed in fleshy thuds just as the car exploded in a thunderous crack, bursting into flames like a damn fireball had hit it.

  “Holy crap,” I stumbled back, reaching for my dagger. I’d never seen anything like that.

  Fabian shot forward, a blur of speed, reaching the first person on the ground before I could even blink. He caught the first guy around the neck, snapping it within a heartbeat. He turned on the second man—a man I could see was dressed in all black. The Summer Prince placed his hand on the man’s head.

  And that was it.

  The man dropped the gun, screaming as he lurched back. Flames erupted over his body like he was a victim of spontaneous combustion.

  Fabian laughed as he whirled, zeroing in on the third man, who was still standing. He turned to run, but didn’t make it very far. Fabian was on him in a second, and the smell of charred flesh reached me.

  I kept walking backward until I bumped into the SUV. I turned, finding Ren standing there with a gun in his hand. “Maybe . . . maybe we should’ve let him out of the car earlier.”

  “Good God,” he murmured, eyes wide.

  The kind of power the Prince could wield was beyond frightening. A weapon of mass destruction with pointy ears, and apparently a hard-on for Tink. If he was capable of this, what exactly was the Winter Prince truly capable of?

  Tink peeked his head up over the window. “That was kind of hot. Literally. Figuratively.”

  I turned to him. “I think you should be really, really careful with him.”

  “We need to get to the others.” Ren handed me another gun. “There’s still gunfire back there.”

  I turned just in time to see Fabian taking out the men that were thrown from the car. My stomach turned as I faced Ren. “Please be careful. Don’t get shot.”

  Ren gave me a devilish smile. “Keep yourself in one piece, because when this is over I have a lot of ideas on how I want to work out some of the adrenaline this fight is going to give us.”

  Oh my.

  That was definitely great motivation to stay alive.

  Stretching up, I grabbed his chin and brought his mouth to mine. I kissed him with everything I had in me, and it was harsh and fierce. When I pulled back, I almost didn’t want to let him go. “I love you.”

  His hand brushed over my hip. “Prove it to me later.”

  Then Ren was gone, rushing around the side of the SUV, toward the glaring headlights.

  I spun to Tink. “Stay—”

  “Don’t.” He opened the door, forcing me to take a step back. “I’m not a child, Ivy. I can take care of myself. Trust me.”

  “I know you’re not a child, Tink.” Another rapid succession of gunfire echoed across the highway. “But this is really dangerous.”

  “I know.” He closed the door behind him. “But I can help. So, if you want to cancel Amazon Prime, then do so, but I’m not staying in this car while all of you risk your lives.”

  There was a shout, and I could hear footsteps pounding off the ground. Arguing with Tink was just going to get us both killed. “Stay close to Fabian.”

  A wild grin whipped across his face. “Don’t have to tell me twice.”

  As Tink shot past me, I whipped around and saw a man racing toward me. I didn’t recognize him, but he was definitely human. He lifted a hand, and the moonlight glinted off a dagger.

  An Order member.


  He charged forward, and I dipped low. Springing up, I spun and slammed my foot into his back. There was a sickening crunch that startled me.

  The man went down, twitching and spasming.

  “What the . . . ?” I stumbled back, shocked that a simple kick to the back would . . . oh God.

  I was stronger now. How could I keep forgetting that?

  A kick to the back had broken the man’s spine. My stomach churned as I spun, and I didn’t have time to really process that. A second man raced at me, and I sidestepped his attack. He whirled, but I caught his arm. Twisting sharply, I winced at the crack and desperately ignored the man’s yelp of pain. He dropped the dagger.

  “I don’t want to kill you,” I said, putting pressure on the man until he went down on his knees. I seriously didn’t want to. Killing humans, well, it was nothing like killing fae. They didn’t cave into themselves like fae did. Instead, it was bloody and messy and stuck with you long after the deed was done. “So, if I let go, you’re going to behave, right?”

  The man gasped out a harsh laugh. “You better go ahead and kill me, because if you let me up, I’m going to take you out, you bitch.”

  “Wow.” I increased pressure out of spite. “I’m holding your broken arm, dude.”

  “Kill me,” he gasped out. “Go ahead and do it, you traitorous whore!”

  My jaw clenched as someone in the distance shouted. There was a flare of orange light, and I assumed Fabian was lighting some people up in the worst possible way. “You’re an Order member.”

  “Just like you were,” he said, twisting his head to the side. “But you betrayed us.”

  “I didn’t betray shit. How did you know we were out here?”

  “How do you think? You—” He lurched, grabbing the dagger.

  I cursed as he swiped behind him. Letting go, I jumped out of the way. He stumbled to his feet.

  “Whatever you think about me is wrong. I haven’t betrayed the Order. I’m trying to stop—”

  He came at me like a freight train, and instinct took over. I didn’t want to kill him, but I also didn’t want to get stabbed to death either. I already knew how sucky that felt.

  Shooting forward, I shoved my other dagger into his chest, between the ribs. I yanked it out as I whispered, “I’m sorry.”

  He didn’t speak as he fell forward.

  Swallowing hard, I shot around the SUV, back toward the headlights. I kept to the dark, racing toward the car the Prince’s consul had been packed into.

  Bullet holes lined the entire side. Windows were gone. My steps slowed, and the burger I ate earlier almost ended up on the ground.

  All of them . . . they were slowly collapsing into themselves, their pale eyes wide with terror and
pain, skin peeling and flaking away. Mouths gone. They couldn’t make a sound.

  “God,” I gasped, looking away from the sight and then back. My gaze met Fred’s. I didn’t know what to say, but I saw it . . . I saw it in his gaze.

  He was pleading with me.

  I looked down at the dagger, knowing what he wanted—knowing that I could end this for them quickly. Everything inside me rebelled against the idea, which was so crazy. I could kill during battle, but I was having a hard time carrying out a mercy killing? It was different though.

  Briefly squeezing my eyes shut, I forced myself to woman up and then I . . . I did it. I took care of all of them, and when I was done I wanted to be done with all of this, because their pain-stricken faces and knowledge in their eyes that I was sending them back to a world that was dying would haunt me for the rest of my days.

  But it was far from over.

  I turned, coming to an abrupt halt when I saw Fabian standing there, staring into the car. “I had to—”

  “I know.” His gaze shifted to me. “Thank you.”

  “Don’t say—” I saw movement over his shoulder and reacted without thought, firing the gun. Fabian whirled with a gasp just as another Order member went down.

  “Don’t thank me for that,” I said, then took off for the other car—to where I no longer heard gunfire.

  Tink was up ahead, having not stayed close to Fabian. He was kneeling next to something—someone—and he was shirtless.

  Faye—he was next to Faye.

  “Is she . . . ?”

  “I’m fine. Didn’t get hit by a bullet, but a piece of glass nearly severed my arm,” she answered, voice strained. It was then that I saw Tink was wrapping his shirt around her bicep. “I’ll heal. Dane is . . . he’s dead.”

  Pressure seized my throat. Shit. “Kalen?”

  “He’s with Ren,” Tink answered, not looking up. “I’m staying with her.”

  I started forward, but I stopped. “I’m . . . I’m sorry about Dane.”

  Faye closed her eyes.

  Drawing in a deep breath, I started running. Up ahead was a truck, the kind that had running lights on top. I was careful to be quiet, but it was pointless. There was another car in-between us, one that looked like it had just arrived on the scene. There wasn’t even a part of me that hoped they were on Team Not Kill Us. I just knew better.

  The doors opened up, and five climbed out. Five. Great. I didn’t see guns, so at least there was that. Fabian was suddenly behind me.

  The odds starting looking a lot better.

  A rush of adrenaline coiled tight as I shot forward, reaching the first Order member. She dove at me, but I shot under her arm, faster than she could track. I came up behind her, and I shut everything down inside me. I didn’t think about her being a human or that we used to be on the same side. I didn’t wonder if they’d still be fighting me if they knew how much the Order had lied. I had to for me to do this. I couldn’t think about the fact that I was pulling the trigger and shooting her right in the chest.

  Swinging around, I caught another in the back with my boot, and he went down on one knee. I brought the dagger down, wrenching it back out when I hit the target.

  Hearing pounding footsteps coming from behind me, I spun and jumped to the side, narrowly missing a dagger to the chest. I started to twist, but the man’s neck snapped to the side. He fell, revealing Fabian.

  “Thanks,” I gasped.

  “I owed you.”

  Fabian made quick work of the remaining members, clearing a path for me to make it to where I hoped Ren was still standing. I neared the grill of the truck when a form stepped out. I lifted the gun, prepared to blow a hole straight through whoever it was.

  Kalen lifted his hands. “It’s me—just me.”

  “Crap.” I lowered the gun. “I could’ve shot you. Where’s Ren?”

  The fae jerked his head. “He’s got one of them.”

  Apparently, Ren was the only one who had the intelligence to leave one of them alive. I followed Kalen around the side of the truck, keeping an eye out for other Order members.

  I saw Ren and wanted to tackle him out of relief. I managed not to do that, mainly because he had a gun pointed at someone, and I figured a tackle-hug wouldn’t help the situation at the moment.

  “Now that Ivy’s joining us, I’m hoping you’re going to change your mind and start talking.” Ren’s voice was as hard as granite. “She’s got way less patience than I do.”

  I smirked as I reached his side. My gaze followed to where the gun pointed, and I had to look down because Ren had whoever it was on their knees. I gasped as I recognized the dark-haired man.

  Every muscle in my body locked up as I stared down at the man who’d killed Ren’s best friend. The man who oversaw the Elite and had come to New Orleans to hunt me down.

  Kyle Clare.

  Chapter 23

  Kyle didn’t change his mind. Not that I was entirely surprised. As Order members, we were practically bred to keep our mouths shut if we were captured by the enemy.

  And to Kyle, we were the enemy.

  So, we were going to have to make him talk, like we had with Marlon, and that wasn’t exactly something I was looking forward to. Even if Kyle was a giant prick who needed a healthy dose of karma.

  Since it was only a matter of time before our little showdown along the interstate would be seen by some unsuspecting person with terrible luck, we had to get off the road and someplace safe where we could question Kyle and find out how they knew we’d been heading to San Diego.

  Who was left of our group piled into the SUV, including a tied up and gagged Kyle. We made it to some creepy-ass roadside motel where I normally wouldn’t even think twice about staying, but they had vacancies and looked like the type of place that was used to hearing screams in the middle of the night.

  We paid cash for three rooms and stuck Kyle in the middle one, gagged and bound to one of those uncomfortable desk chairs. It was just Ren and I in the room with him. We figured having any of the fae there wouldn’t entice him to play nice.

  Besides, Kalen was out there somewhere dumping our damaged vehicles and getting us new rides, and Faye was resting so her arm would heal. I guessed Kalen was going to glamour someone into handing over their keys, and I really didn’t have the brain space to decide if that was right or wrong.

  Ren stood directly in front of him, arms folded over his chest. “I’m about to remove that gag and I’m hoping you’re smart enough to not make a lot of noise.”

  Kyle glared up at Ren, and I had no idea if he was going to be smart enough or not.

  “We want to talk to you and we need you to listen,” Ren said, stepping closer. “We’re on the same side.”

  A moment passed and then Kyle nodded. Ren removed the gag, and the first thing out of the older man’s mouth was, “We aren’t on the same side, boy. We stopped being on the same side the moment you realized what she was and you didn’t put her down.”

  I arched a brow. “This is going to be a lovely conversation.”

  Kyle’s dark gaze shot to me. “Should’ve listened to my gut the first time I met you. Hearing stories of you fighting the Prince and surviving? Bullshit.”

  “Contrary to what you believe, I did fight the Prince and I did survive. Not only that, I was then kidnapped against my will, and I still survived.” I held his gaze. “I didn’t know I was the Halfling.”

  He sneered. “Like that matters.”

  “I guess it doesn’t,” I mused, “because I’m sure you put down a lot of halflings in your day, people who had no idea what they were or why you were killing them.”

  “Why don’t you ask him how many he killed before he met you?”

  Ren stiffened in front of me.