Brave, p.22
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       Brave, p.22

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

  “He didn’t have the balls to take out Noah. Or you, apparently.” Kyle smiled. “But he’s killed—”

  “Shut up,” I spat.

  “Thought you wanted me to talk?” He leaned forward as far as the rope Ren found God knows where would let him. “How does it make you feel knowing that the very reason he came to New Orleans was to put a bullet between the eyes of the Halfling—to kill you. But I guess you’ve got a golden pussy, because—”

  Ren moved so fast I barely saw his fist connect with Kyle’s face, knocking his head back and the chair up on two legs. Ren’s jaw was so hard it could crack stone as he stood there, staring down at Kyle.

  I stepped forward. “Just so you know, I like the idea of my vagina being golden. That’s not an insult.”

  “Yeah, you wouldn’t.” Kyle spit out a mouthful of blood. “The lighting is shit in here, but I see you.”

  I had a feeling I knew what he meant and I realized I didn’t care. It hit me like a speeding train, but it was what it was. I knew I looked different. I knew what it meant, and I didn’t care. “I don’t give a shit what you see.”

  “How? How did you hide what you really looked like?” he demanded. “Because I know damn well if Daniel saw you for what you really are, he still wouldn’t be defending you.”

  My head cocked to the side as Ren glanced back at me. “Daniel is defending me?”

  For a moment, I didn’t think Kyle was going to answer. “He didn’t want to believe you betrayed the Order. Obviously, he was wrong.”

  “I didn’t betray the Order.” I paused. Daniel still believing in me was surprisingly great news. My lips pursed. “Well, killing those Order members who attacked us probably ranks up there in the betrayal department, but we were defending ourselves.”

  Kyle stared at me. His left eye was swelling, an injury I guessed had occurred out by the cars. “You look like a goddamn fae. You’re disgusting.”

  Striking like lightning once more, Ren’s fist connected with Kyle’s stomach. The contact echoed throughout the room. He caught Kyle by the shoulder, stopping the chair from toppling backward. “I think you meant to say she’s beautiful, but I understand. Words were never your forte.”

  “Doing your duty was never yours.” Kyle looked up at Ren and laughed. “Now was it?”

  They were eye to eye. “You know damn well I did my duty over and fucking over.”

  “But not when it counts.”

  “You’re wrong. When it counts, I’m doing the right thing.” Ren stepped back as the chair righted itself. “We’re not here to talk about what I was supposed to do. How did you know where we were?”

  Kyle spit out more blood. “Go fuck yourself.”

  “Language,” Ren murmured, letting his arms hang at his sides.

  The leader of the Elite laughed, and it sounded wet. “What information do you think you’re going to get from me? You and I both know how this is going to end.”

  I glanced between the two. “How is this going to end?”

  Kyle’s upper lip curled. “He’s going to kill me.”

  Looking at Ren, I waited for him to answer and when he didn’t, I decided it was time to step in. “Okay. Let’s get this train back on track. Do you know the Prince has found another halfling?”

  A muscle flexed along Kyle’s rapidly bruising jaw. “No shit.”

  “So, did it ever occur to you that if the Prince was en route to San Diego for another halfling, that maybe I wasn’t on board with getting pregnant and ushering in the end of the world as we know it?”

  Another moment passed. “Doesn’t change what you are or the danger you present.”

  I exhaled noisily. “Okay. I’ll give you that. But why do you think we are heading to San Diego? Don’t you dare say to join up and meet with the Prince, because I might just punch you, and guess what? I hit a hell of a lot harder than Ren does.”

  “You’re traveling with a bunch of fae,” he replied. “Pretty sure it’s obvious.”

  “We’re trying to stop him, you dumb son of a bitch.” Ren moved to stand behind Kyle’s chair. “But you kind of got in the way, delaying us. You better hope he hasn’t found her.”

  “The Order in San Diego has been watching for him. We aren’t stupid.”

  Ren clapped his hands down on Kyle’s shoulders, causing him to jump. “That’s up for discussion.”

  A little bit of hope that we weren’t too late sparked in my chest. “They haven’t seen the Prince yet?”

  Kyle said nothing.

  “That doesn’t mean the Prince isn’t there, that he hasn’t already found her.” Ren’s hands curled, digging into the man’s shoulders. “And while you’re here barking up the wrong damn tree, he’s getting exactly what he wants.”

  “You know we have almost no time to stop him from succeeding,” I tried again to reason with the man. “You don’t have to like what I am. You can think whatever you want, but by now you have to have realized we’re not working for the Prince.”

  “But you’re working with the fae.”

  “And this isn’t the first time the Order has worked with the fae.” Ren smiled when Kyle winced. “You want to talk about that?”

  Kyle fell silent.

  “That’s the interesting thing about all of this.” Ren’s hands slipped off his shoulders, nearing the man’s throat. “You talk to me about duty, but you all are a bunch of damn liars. Did you ever think one of us wouldn’t cross paths with the Summer Court and learn about how the Order and the Elite worked alongside them? How they helped close the gateways? How they don’t kill humans or feed off them?”

  Well, except for the royals. They fed, but I thought it was best we kept that to ourselves at the moment.

  His eyes flashed. “You all were trained to kill, not to ask questions with the fae while you share tea and biscuits.”

  My brows lifted. “The Order lied to us—all of us—and continue to do so, because they thought none of us would ever talk and listen to one of the Summer fae?”

  “Worked so far.”

  I stared at him a moment, dumbfounded. “That is absolutely stupid.”

  Kyle gave me a bloody smirk. “Order members were never trained to talk and listen to the fae. You were trained to strike first. Always.”

  “Again,” I said. “That is stupid and sloppy.”

  “You know what’s stupid? You thinking you’re going to make it out of this alive.”

  “Shaking in my boots.” I rolled my eyes. “I’m guessing you put a bulletin out on us, and we were spotted. That’s why you found us.”

  “Probably in Texas,” Ren agreed, sliding one hand around Kyle’s neck. “When we stopped to grab food. I’m also guessing the sect in Southern California is going to be looking out for us.”

  The man visibly swallowed. He may act like he was tough shit, but he was scared.

  Kyle dragged in a deep breath as Ren let go and stepped back. “I’ve got nothing to say to you all.”

  “It’s okay.” I smiled. “Because you did tell us something we can use.”

  Kyle’s eyes narrowed. “I haven’t told you shit.”

  “Oh, you did.” I laughed softly as Ren’s gaze lifted to mine. “You told me exactly who we need to contact. Daniel.”

  His gaze widened with understanding.

  “So . . .” I lifted my hand, extending my middle finger. “Thanks for that.”

  There were no words to describe the satisfaction I felt when his face paled. “Go ahead and kill me.”

  “I’d love to do that for you.” Ren walked past him, smacking him on the back of the head in the process. “But what does that do but prove you right that we’re the enemy?”

  I looked at him sharply, but managed to stay quiet. Based on the look on Kyle’s face, he was just as surprised as I was.

  Ren smiled down at Kyle. “Leaving you alive will hopefully get through that thick skull of yours that we’re on the same side. I won’t have your blood on my hands. Neither will Ivy.”<
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  Chapter 24

  Smothering a yawn, I followed Ren into the room next door. We’d gagged Kyle before we left and turned the TV on just in case. He wasn’t going anywhere though. Not unless he developed super special powers and managed to break free from where we left him . . .

  Tied to the pipes in the bathroom.

  “You really going to call Daniel?” Ren asked, stopping in front of the bed that was sunken in the middle. I wondered how many people got pregnant and died on that bed.

  Then I vomited a little in my mouth and decided I didn’t need to think about that. “I think he’s our best option if it gets down to having to open the doors to send the Prince back.”

  “It’s a risk.” He scanned the small, dingy hotel room, his brow raising as he took in the TV that looked like it came from the eighties. “He may not think you’ve betrayed him, but when. . . .”

  As Ren trailed off, I watched him unstrap the dagger and the thorn stake. He placed them on the small nightstand closest to the door. A gun joined them.

  “When he sees what I look like now?” I finished for him.

  Ren turned to me. “It shouldn’t change a damn thing, but it might.”

  I bit down on my lip. “I know. That’s why it’s best if I call him once we get to San Diego. Calling him now is too much of a risk. We could run into another roadblock along the way if I’m wrong about him.”

  “We could.” He toed off his boots. “We can’t stay here long. Other Elite members will be looking for Kyle. We’ve probably got a handful of hours. We need to rest and then get on the road.”


  I think you’re right,” he said, running a hand over his messy hair. “We’ll contact Daniel when we get to San Diego and . . . go from there.”

  I nodded, watching him as he tugged the shirt off over his head, showing off those defined abs and pecs. Something was off about his tone, and his gaze skittered away from mine whenever they met.

  “What are we going to do about Captain Dickhead? Do we really plan on leaving him alive?”

  His lips twitched into a faint smile. “We should kill him. I want to. Badly. For a lot of different reasons.” He sat down on the edge of the bed, and I was surprised when the thing didn’t collapse. “But if you or I kill him, it just proves him right—proves what other members of the Order must believe.”

  “So, we’re just going to leave him here?”

  Thrusting his hand through his hair again, he nodded. “I think that’s the right thing to do.”

  I didn’t think that was the right thing to do at all. Leaving Kyle alive meant we’d be looking over our shoulder every single second while we dealt with Drake and everything else. We needed to talk about this.

  “Kyle was right.”

  Blinking, I frowned. “Right about what?”

  Ren leaned forward, resting his arms on his legs. “About me killing the halflings.”

  All thoughts about killing Kyle vanished. “Ren—”

  “You know how many I killed?” He lowered his chin and gave a little shake of his head. “I do.”

  Oh, no. “That doesn’t matter.”

  “It doesn’t? I kind of think it does.” He was quiet for a moment. “I would’ve killed you if I hadn’t gotten to know you—if I had learned you were a halfling before I learned who you were.”

  That was hard to hear, but I walked toward him. “But that’s not what happened.”

  “It could have.” He lifted his head, his gaze so troubled that it made my heart ache. “They were like you, Ivy. Some weren’t Order members, but others were, and they had no idea what they were. No idea why they were seconds away from dying. They never even knew what hit them.”

  My breath caught, and I found myself at a loss for words.

  “Sometimes I don’t know how you can be with me,” he said, and those words broke my heart. “How you can look at me, love me, knowing why I came to New Orleans.”

  I swallowed down the lump in my throat. “Well, it helps that you didn’t try to kill me.”

  Ren didn’t smile like I thought he would. I knelt in front of him, placing one hand on his leg and cupping his chin with the other. “Look at me.”

  Slowly, his gaze lifted to mine. “I’m looking at you, Sweetness. Always am even when my eyes aren’t on you.”

  My chest squeezed in response to those words. God, Ren was . . . he was too good for all of this. I saw that with sudden clarity. If he hadn’t been born into this world, he’d probably be a doctor, saving lives, or a teacher ushering in a better youth for tomorrow.

  And maybe if I wasn’t born into this, I’d also be . . . too good.

  “Who you were before and what you did is not who you are now and what you’re going to do.” I dragged my thumb under his lip. “Both of us have done things we wished we hadn’t, and I like to think that we wouldn’t have done those things if we had known differently. We are not who we used to be.”

  Ren’s eyes closed as he turned his head, kissing my palm, but I could feel the tension rolling off him. “We killed people today—people I once worked with. I recognized at least three of them.”

  I sucked in a sharp breath.

  “I know we had to. If we hadn’t, they wouldn’t think twice about killing us.” A shudder rippled through him. “But that doesn’t make it any easier.”

  “I’m so sorry,” I whispered.

  Ren didn’t respond, and as I stared up at him, I knew right then that Kyle’s blood couldn’t be on Ren’s hands. There was no way I could push the issue of killing Kyle.

  The stress continued to pour off him, and I decided I had to do something. Anything to ease his troubles. Sleep would help, and we both needed that, but all I wanted in that moment was to take his pain and self-loathing away, and there was only one way I knew how.

  I didn’t think about the thin, dirty carpet as I dropped to my knees between his legs and reached for the button on his pants.

  He straightened, lifting his head as he caught my wrist. “Ivy—”

  I shushed him as I stretched up, kissing him softly as I worked on his zipper. I felt him then, already hard and straining. I broke the kiss and lowered back down as my gaze moved to his.

  “Please?” I whispered.

  Ren let go of my wrist, lifting one finger at a time.

  Tugging the zipper down the rest of the way, I grabbed ahold of his pants and boxers. He lifted his hips and I was able to drag them past his knees and off. Then I took him in my hand, marveling at how he could feel as smooth as silk and yet hard as steel.

  He exhaled harshly as I moved my hand from the tip to the base and back up. A bead of liquid glistened. His entire body jerked as I moved my thumb along the tip, and my gaze flew to his. He watched me intently, his lips slightly parted as he reached behind my head, finding the pin in my hair and tugging it out. Curls fell past my shoulders in a tangled mess, and then his hand was threading through them, curling around the back of my head. He used the slightest pressure to show me what he wanted.

  The salty taste of him danced over my tongue, and my ears blistered at the ragged sound he made. I didn’t drag it out. This wasn’t about playing and teasing. This was all about taking his mind out of the dark places it had gone. It was about easing him. I took him in my mouth, and even though I didn’t have a ton of experience with blow jobs, I quickly learned that when a guy was into you, there really wasn’t a wrong way of doing this.

  Well, except for probably using the teeth in a not so seductive manner, but whatever.

  “Ivy,” he growled, his entire body flexing as I sucked and moved up, swirling my tongue along the head. He swore and his body tightened.

  Heat swamped me, slipping down my body. I ached for him in a different way than moments before.

  I took him as far as I could, and that seemed to be enough based on the way his hand tightened around my head and the deep sounds he was making. Then his hand slipped to my neck and his thumb found my pulse, that oddly sensitiv
e spot for me, and he gently massaged the skin until I was squeezing my thighs together. He swelled against my tongue a second before he tried to pull me away, but I didn’t let him, not as he pulsed and growled my name.

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