Brave, p.23
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       Brave, p.23

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

  When it was over, I sat back, rather proud of myself. Or, I tried to sit back. That wasn’t what happened though. Ren moved fast, grabbing me under the arms and lifting me onto my feet. I gasped as his fingers made quick work of my pants, and before I could even say ‘yum’ he had my pants, my underwear, and my boots off of me.

  Jesus, he was talented.

  And strong—really strong.

  Ren lifted me up onto the bed as he sat down, holding me up so that a very private part of me was lined up with his mouth.

  He said nothing as I looked down at him. My heart thundered at the fierce, raw intensity etched into his striking features. Stunned, I locked my legs to stay balanced as he gripped my hips—my ass, his fingers digging into my flesh.

  And then his mouth was on me.

  With no warning. No slow build-up. Lips. Tongue. Sucking. Dragging. I gasped, holding on to his head for support. He devoured me, his mouth hot and wet and all-consuming.

  I tried to say his name, but I lost all control as my body coiled tight. I was beyond coherent speech, beyond anything other than what his mouth was doing between my thighs. I felt like I was going to die, that I was dying, and then it happened. I cried out, my body liquefying as release pounded through me, throbbing and pulsing and never-ending. It took my legs right out from underneath me.

  And Ren caught me.

  I collapsed in his arms—limp, sated, and exhausted. I barely processed him twisting so we were both lying on our sides, my cheek plastered to his chest. Not a word passed between us, and that was how he fell asleep, holding me close as if he feared I was going to float away from him.

  I didn’t sleep though.

  I couldn’t as the pleasant haze of release faded away and I thought about what I had to do.

  What I had to do for him.

  Chapter 25

  Ren was still in the shower when I slipped out of the room. I told him that I would check on Kyle and make sure he was fine before we hit the road. I insisted on it, because I didn’t want Ren anywhere near that bastard.

  It was early and the morning sun caused me to wince as it burned up the parking lot. I wasn’t alone when I stepped outside.

  Fabian stood in front of the door Kyle was being kept in.

  “Have you been out here all night?” I asked.

  “On and off,” he replied, face expressionless. “Wanted to make sure he stayed where he needed to be.”

  “He’s not going anywhere. Trust me.”

  “He won’t.”

  The coldness in his voice sent a chill down my spine. I looked around, not seeing anyone else. “Where’s Tink?”

  “Asleep in the room at the end. He’s with Faye.” He inclined his head. “Why do you call him that? Tink?”

  I lifted my brows as I shoved a limp curl back from my face. The question surprised me. “I just . . . well, he never told me his real name and he reminded me of Tinkerbell.”

  Fabian’s mouth twitched. “Interesting.” There was a pause. “I heard you guys last night.”

  My eyes widened as heat poured into my face. Oh my God, we barely made any noise! Well, there was moaning—definite moaning of the sexual variety. The walls in this place had to be as thin as the damn carpet. “I don’t know what you think you heard, but it wasn’t us.”

  He frowned as he watched me. “I heard you and Ren talking to the man inside there.”

  “Oh. Oh.” I let out a choked laugh. God. Now I was just embarrassing myself. “Carry on then.”

  His frown faded, but his stare was still heavy. “That is why I am waiting.”

  My gaze flew to him. A terse moment passed, one full of understanding, and then Fabian stepped aside. I reached for the door.

  “I did hear you moaning also,” Fabian added. “You sounded like a wild moose grazing.”

  My mouth dropped open. “A wild moose grazing?”

  “Yes. That is correct. It was quite . . . disturbing.”

  Oh my God, I didn’t sound like a wild moose.

  Face flaming, I flipped him off and then opened up the motel door. The room was quiet, but we’d left the bathroom light on and I could see him from the entryway.

  He was dozing, his chin resting against his chest, wrists secured to the pipe. The man had senses of a cat though, because I took one step toward him and he woke right up.

  “Good morning,” I said, making my way toward him. “I would’ve brought you coffee and a doughnut, but then I remembered I don’t like you.”

  He snorted, looking away. “If you’re here to finally kill me, just get it over with, because you’re fucking annoying.”

  “I’m not here to do that.” Walking into the bathroom, I sat down on the closed toilet seat. “I want to talk.”

  “And I want to use that toilet, so if you’re not going to, how about you move your ass and untie me.”

  I laughed. “Not going to happen. Not yet.”

  His gaze slowly slid to me. “You know they’re coming for me. They already have to be out there, closing in on all of you.”

  “I know.” I crossed one leg over the other. “So, we don’t have a lot of time.”

  “You’re almost out of time.”

  “Almost.” My gaze flickered over him, and I saw the fine tremor that coursed through him. “You may not believe this, but I was kidnapped by the Prince. I was taken against my will. I fought to stay alive and to not give in. You have no idea what I had to do to do that.” My throat thickened, but I kept going. “You can hate me. You can hate Ren. But we’re the world’s best chance right now. We were on the same side.”

  A muscle ticked along his jaw. “Were?”

  I didn’t address that. Not yet.

  “Are you married? Have children?” I asked.

  “What?” he snapped.

  “Just curious. A lot of Order members marry one another. Have children. Did you?” I rested my chin on my palm. “You don’t look like you did. No wedding band. You’re all about the job. Duty.”

  “Yes,” he seethed. “Eradicating the fae is my duty.”

  “Even the ones that helped the Order? The Summer Court?”

  Kyle didn’t answer.

  “What happened? Why can’t you tell me that? I’ve heard their side, but I know there has to be more. There has to be for the Order to have turned on them.”

  Pressing his lips into a thin line, he tipped his head back against the bottom of the sink.

  Clenching my jaw, I shook my head. I wanted to kick him in the face, but I doubted that would get him to talk. “It can’t be just because they were fae.”

  His head whipped toward me. “It can’t be?”

  I stilled.

  “It doesn’t matter if they weren’t feeding or not or if they helped the Order. They’re a damn abomination infecting our world—a fucking disease. The Order couldn’t see that, but we could.” His eyes flashed. “We did what we needed to do, like we always do.”

  Was he being for real? “You—the Elite turned on the Summer fae because they were fae?”

  “Is there another reason I am unaware of?”

  “Holy shit,” I whispered, shocked to my core. “That’s all? You betrayed them. Killed them. Took their Crystal. You did all of this because they were fae. Wow. I’m really out of words.”

  He cursed and called me an idiot, but all I could do was stare at him. There was no deep motivation, no hidden agenda. Just . . . bigotry and fear. If this was what the Elite were then they were . . . they were no better than the fae that wanted to take over the mortal world.

  I was nothing like him. Neither was Ren. The moment we learned that there were fae out there just trying to live their best lives without harming others, we called a truce. It wasn’t easy, but we were . . .

  We were good human beings.

  On most days.

  Just not today, though. Today I was not a good person. I was the worst of the worst.

  And I was okay with that.

  Kyle sighed heavily. “He’s goi
ng to have to kill me, you know that? Sooner or later. Because I will find you and I will kill you. Then he’ll come after me, and if he doesn’t kill me, I’ll kill him. He’s a traitor.”

  I unfolded my arms. This conversation was over. “He’s not going to kill you.”

  Kyle smirked. “You’re a dumb bitch if you think that’s a smart move.”

  “Guess what? I’m a bitch, but I am not dumb.” I rose from the toilet. “I get why he thinks letting you live will help build a bridge with the Order again. He’s just that kind of a person. A good person. He’s better than you.”

  “He’s fucking a halfling,” Kyle spat.

  I let out a cold laugh as I backed out of the bathroom. “And he enjoys it. A lot.”

  A look of disgust crept into his expression. “He’ll do it. I promise you that. He and I will see each other again.”

  “You’re wrong, so very wrong about that.” I stopped in front of the main door. “Ren’s not going to kill you later. I’m not going to allow that.”

  He laughed. “What? You’re going to do it? Then lie to him about it later? Kind of hard to kill me when you’re all the way over there.”

  “No.” I waited until he was looking at me and then I smiled. “I’m not going to do it either, because I made a promise not to lie to him anymore.”

  “Isn’t that sweet,” he spat, shaking his head.

  “It is.” I wrapped my hand around the door and started to open it. “But I didn’t say no one was going to kill you, Kyle.”

  I stepped aside.

  And the Summer Prince walked in.

  Chapter 26

  Kalen had found us one of the large SUVs that could seat a damn soccer team, so we were all in one car now.

  All of us that were left.

  One day on the road and we’d already lost five people. That was hard to think about or even acknowledge.

  I think that was why Faye and Kalen were quiet in the furthest back row. I hadn’t known Dale well, but I liked him even if he had called me a wee little halfling.

  Fabian was also quiet, and I was sure that had to do with him losing his entire consul. Every last one of them had died in that car, riddled with iron laced bullets.

  I bit down on my lip, glancing over at Ren. He had no idea what I’d done. As planned, we left without Ren checking in on Kyle and he hadn’t asked me how Kyle was. And I didn’t ask Fabian what he’d done to Kyle, but the Summer Prince was noticeably more relaxed when we left.

  I was sure he made Kyle pay for every death that had taken place.

  Part of me was still in a state of disbelief over what Kyle had told me. The Elite were the ones who betrayed the Summer Court simply because they were fae. I didn’t want to believe it. I wanted there to be some reason that would help me understand why the Elite had done what they had. But there was nothing except bigotry and fear.

  And all I could hope was that bigotry and fear didn’t extend far into the Order. I knew it probably did, but Kyle had said that Daniel hadn’t wanted to believe that I would betray him. We had a chance.

  My fingers curled around the burner phone. I didn’t even remember pulling it out of my pocket, but I’d been holding it for hours now, the device hot in my hands.

  Calling Daniel was a huge risk, but one we were going to have to take. He was our only hope when it came to opening the gateways to send the Prince back.

  “Hey.” Tink leaned forward, between the seats, his voice low. “I was thinking about something.”

  With Tink, it was anyone’s guess about what it could’ve been. I turned to him. “What?”

  “Do you think it’s possible that the Order has already discovered who the Halfling is and has them in, I don’t know, protective custody?” he asked.

  A muscle thrummed along Ren’s jaw. “The Elite is in San Diego, that much is obvious. If they’ve discovered who the Halfling is, then they wouldn’t be in protective custody.”

  Ren was right. The Elite would’ve killed them immediately. They wouldn’t try to keep her safe.

  “That’s kind of screwed up,” Tink commented.

  “You’re just now realizing this?”

  He looked at me. “It’s just wrong.”


  Yeah, it was.

  Tink sat back, and when I glanced over at Fabian, my gaze met his. “If the Halfling is still alive and not compromised, she will be under the protection of the Summer Court,” he said. “We will not allow harm to come to her.”

  “And if she is compromised?”

  “Then we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it—if we come to it,” Fabian replied, looking out the window. That was a very different answer than when we started this trip. “Let us hope that is not the case.”

  I wasn’t sure how much hoping had worked out for us in the past, but I was willing to give it a try. It couldn’t hurt. We spent the rest of the trip discussing our game plan for once we got to San Diego. According to Faye, Tanner had taken care of lodging. We’d be staying at a rather secluded home, just outside of San Diego, in Del Mar. I had no idea if he knew the owner or if this was some kind of Airbnb thing which made me want to laugh. Faye knew where to retrieve the keys on the property, and despite how serious our visit was, I was excited to learn that it was on a beach. I wanted to walk barefoot in the sand just once.


  From there, I’d call Daniel on the burner phone. The kind of phone Tanner provided us was encrypted and untraceable, connecting to wifi instead of cellular towers. That didn’t mean that Daniel couldn’t trace us via the internet if we were using a static IP, so that meant we needed public wifi just to be sure.

  And from there, well, all we had was hope.

  Hope that Daniel would hear me out and agree to meet with us. Hope that they had some idea of where the Prince was, and hope that we weren’t too late.

  We reached San Diego around dinnertime and stopped at a fast food restaurant that had free wifi to make the call and grab something to eat.

  Parked in the back of the lot, I stayed in the car with Ren while the rest went into the restaurant. Tink was going to grab me, not one but two, orders of chicken fries, and I was happy to report that I was really, really looking forward to devouring them.

  I hadn’t had any cravings since the last one, so that was good, I thought.

  “You ready to do this?” Ren’s gaze met mine. He was leaning back in the driver’s seat, his arm resting along the back of my seat.

  Nodding, I drew in a shallow breath. “Ready as I’ll ever be.” My fingers hovered over the number pad. I knew Tanner’s number by heart. “What if he doesn’t answer?”

  “Then you keep calling until he does.”

  I nodded again. My stomach was full of knots. What if Kyle lied? What if Daniel wasn’t even in San Diego? There were so many risks.

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