Brave, p.29
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       Brave, p.29

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

  into her. She and the dolls flew off their feet and backward. The Queen hit the wall . . . and crashed through it.

  “I think we need to go.” Ren grabbed my arm and started backing up. “Like for real.”

  Pulling my gaze away from the bizarre scene, I turned and ran down the hall, catching up with the rest of the group.

  “What about Fabian?” Tink demanded as the patio doors came into view.

  “Forget him,” Ren responded.

  “What?” Tink launched himself off Ren’s shoulder.

  “Oh, hell no.” I snatched Tink out of mid-air, wrapping my hands around his waist. “You are not going back there.”


  “No.” I held tight to Tink as we burst out onto the patio. “And don’t you dare bite me or change forms.”

  Tink’s face fell, and I ignored it as I ran across the parking lot. Kalen already had the keys out as he ran to the driver’s door. Faye climbed into the front seat as Miles climbed in, heading for the second row. Ren got in and twisted toward me, reaching out a hand. His gaze flicked over my head.

  “What the hell?” he demanded, starting to make his way back out.

  I turned and my mouth dropped open.

  Fabian stormed through the doors, and with him was Drake, his face still bloody. “What the hell are you doing?” I reached for my dagger, but realized I had none left. “What are you doing with Drake?”

  “This isn’t Drake.” Fabian held on to the Prince’s arm.

  “Bullshit! I know who he is even with the lighter hair.”

  “You’re wrong.”

  “Fabian, that is the Winter Prince.” Faye had rolled down the window. “I saw him every day. That is Drake.”

  The Winter Prince squinted, shielding his eyes as he swayed unsteadily on his feet. “I am . . .” He trailed off, flinching as if something or someone had gotten near his face.

  “That is not the Winter Prince.” Tink beat at my fist. “I’ve seen him before, Ivy. I know what Drake looks like. I saw him in the Otherworld, remember?”

  Confused, I shook my head.

  “We need to go,” Kalen warned. “We need to get the hell out of here.”

  “Let us in,” Fabian demanded.

  “No fucking way.” Ren pushed me into the seat. “I’m going to kill that son of a bitch. I don’t care if he looks like Beach Prince right now.”

  Ren was out of the SUV before I knew what he was doing. In a heartbeat, his fist slammed into the Prince’s jaw, snapping his head back. I shot forward, fear a bitter taste in the back of my throat. The Prince would—

  The Prince slowly turned his head back to Ren. His lip was split. He didn’t raise his hands or anything as Ren’s fist snaked out again, catching him under the chin, knocking his head back.

  “Stop!” shouted Tink. “You need to stop, Ren!”

  Ren cocked his arm back again, but Fabian caught his fist. “Hit him again, and I will make sure there is nothing left of you.”

  I snatched the back of Ren’s shirt with my free hand and tugged him back. He didn’t budge, not until I wrapped my arm around his waist. “That’s enough.”

  “No.” Ren shook his head. “That is not nearly enough.”

  “He’s not Drake! Look at him. He’s different,” Tink shouted, and then the little bastard sunk his teeth into my hand.

  “Ouch!” I let go, drawing my hand back and shaking the sting out. Tink flew out of the car, toward the Prince’s shoulder. “We don’t have time for this, Tink. Get away from—”

  “If you don’t let both of them into this car, I’m not coming!”

  I gaped at the damn brownie. “Are you out of your mind?”

  “Are you?” Tink shot back.

  “This is not Drake,” Fabian said, his voice sounding broken. “This is my brother.”

  Chapter 31

  The ride back to Del Mar was . . . awkward and tense.

  It probably had to do with the fact that the Prince who kidnapped Ren and me, who had tried to seduce me to bring about a fae apocalypse, and was all-around murderous and psychotic, was sitting in the back seat of the SUV, silent and staring out the window.

  Between that, the armies of troll dolls, the betrayal of Daniel, and the appearance of the Queen, it was officially the worst Monday ever.

  Ren practically sat facing the back seat the entire ride to the house. So did Miles, and I did the same.

  There was something wrong with the Prince.

  He didn’t speak. He didn’t look at any of us. He didn’t even respond to any of the terse comments about him. He just sat there, and I couldn’t believe I was in a car with him and not trying to murder him.

  “He was under an enchantment,” Fabian explained, staring at Drake. It was clear they were brothers. I’d seen the similarity before and now, with the change in the hair color, it was obvious. “We believed that he died in the Great War with the Winter Court. I saw him go down, and I couldn’t get to him. Queen Morgana took his body. We thought she did so to refuse us our burial tradition. Now I know. She placed him under her spell.”

  And now we knew what Queen we were dealing with. Of course, it had to be the one who was the boogeyman of all the fae. Great. Just our freaking luck.

  “So, are you saying he’s not responsible for any of his actions because he was under a spell?” Ren demanded.

  “Yes.” Fabian looked at Ren. “That is exactly what I’m saying.”

  “Bullshit,” he growled. “That bastard—”

  “Was under her spell,” Fabian cut in. “Just like a human would be under a glamour. It is a powerful enchantment that only a King or Queen can do. One that is forbidden.”

  Ren leaned toward the back of the seat. “I. Don’t. Care.”

  “I know it’s hard to accept. I’m having a hard time accepting it, too. Trust me,” Faye said, having twisted around in her seat. “But when one of our kind is under an enchantment, we cannot control what we do. It would be the same for a mortal.”

  Miles stiffened. “He killed scores of our members, either by his own hands or on his order.”

  “And the man you answered to betrayed all of us and his own men,” Faye reminded him.

  I squeezed my eyes shut against the truth of those words. I couldn’t even think about what Daniel had done or that I had ended him.

  Miles didn’t respond to that, because what could he say? I opened my eyes. “It’s not the same thing, though. We didn’t know what Daniel was doing or how long he was doing it. We know what he was doing.”

  “But it’s not him.” Tink landed on the back of our seat. “It wasn’t who he really is. You saw what he did when he came out of the enchantment. He put Queen Bitch through a wall.”

  “I. Don’t. Care.”

  “This is bullshit,” Ren muttered.

  “Let me guess. He has no memory of all the horrible shit he’s done?” I demanded.

  The Prince’s head slowly turned, and his eyes met mine. “I remember everything I’ve done. Everything.”

  I sucked in a sharp breath as a shiver danced over my skin. He didn’t . . . he sounded like the Prince I knew, but at the same time, he didn’t. He returned to staring out the window.

  “It changes nothing,” Ren said.

  “It changes everything,” Fabian replied. “You’ll see. Give him time. You’ll understand.”

  Ren’s laugh was harsh. “This is unbelievable.”

  It really was. All of it, but here we were, and I needed a distraction, because I wanted to whip that thorn stake out of Ren’s hand and slam it into the chest of that bastard, enchantment or not.

  My gaze shifted to Tink. “You going to explain about the troll dolls?”

  He sighed as he walked across the back of our seat, kicking at something none of us could see. “I hate leaving them there. They’re my babies.”

  Babies? They were the stuff of nightmares. “How did you make them move?” I thought about the times I’d find them around the apartment
. “Were they always capable of that?”

  “Well, I take a drop of my blood and mix it in their hair, so I can reanimate them.”

  My eyes widened.

  “And I tried it out a few times back home.” Tink shrugged as he peered up at me. “Sometimes they got out.”

  Oh my God.

  Those damn dolls had been alive!

  “Man, I don’t know what about today is more fucked up,” Ren muttered.

  “The Queen,” Faye answered. “That is the most fucked up thing.”

  “What are we going to do now?” Miles asked.

  No one answered.

  Because no one had any answers. We spent this entire time believing we were dealing with a psychotic prince, but now we had a Queen to deal with and none of us were prepared for that.

  Ren caught my hand, holding me back on the steps as everyone else made their way into the sprawling home.

  “Come here,” he said.

  I wasn’t given much of a choice. Not that I needed one. Holding on to my hand, he pulled me against his chest and folded his arms around me.

  Letting out a ragged breath, I closed my eyes and soaked up his closeness and warmth. A long moment passed before he spoke.

  “I’m so sorry.” Ren kissed my forehead and then each of my eyelids. “I know how you felt about Daniel.”

  I shuddered. “That was why he was so accepting of me, of what I’ve changed into. Shit. I thought it was . . .” I couldn’t finish that thought. Not right now. “I just can’t believe it. Never in a million years would I have ever thought he would turn on us.”

  “I know.” He dragged his hand up the center of my back, threading his fingers through my hair.

  “When did this happen? Was he always working with the Queen? Did he know she was here or did she get to him somehow?”

  “We’re never going to know.” The arm at my waist tightened. “But you did the right thing back there.”

  I had.

  That didn’t make it any easier.

  I swallowed again. “When she grabbed you by the throat, I’ve never been more afraid in my life.”

  “Got to admit, I wasn’t exactly happy myself.” He paused. “But you didn’t seem afraid. You were actually pretty badass in your response.”

  “I would’ve done it. I swear to—”

  “I know,” he whispered. “And that scares me.”

  “You were pretty badass, yourself. Punching the Prince and all.”

  “I want to rip his throat out, Ivy.”

  I shivered. “He didn’t . . . he didn’t even try to stop you.” Slowly, I lifted my gaze to his. “He didn’t retaliate. The Prince I knew would’ve, Ren. You know that.”

  Ren looked away, a muscle thumping along his jaw.

  “What are we going to do?” I whispered hoarsely. “We have him in that house and a crazy, really powerful Queen about to do God knows what. We don’t even know how many Order members are left—” My voice cracked. “This is . . . this is terrifying.”

  He rested his chin on top of my head. “We’re going to figure this out,” he said after a moment. “We have to.”

  I didn’t see how we could. If we didn’t know how to defeat a prince, how in the hell would we defeat the Queen?

  The hand in my hair slid to my cheek. Ren tilted my head back, and my eyes drifted shut. He kissed me, and it was gentle and sweet, and somehow it reminded me that there was still good surrounding me. That there was still us in this mess.

  Opening my eyes, I pulled back and cupped his cheek, wiping away a smudge of blood. “We better head in there.”

  “Yeah. We better.”

  We walked into the house, and both of us stiffened at the sight of the Prince. Fabian placed a hand on his shoulder, steering the silent man away.

  “I don’t like this.” Ren crossed his arms as Fabian led his brother toward the kitchen. “At all.”

  “Me neither.” I watched Tink buzz after them. I couldn’t believe that the Prince had been in the car with us and now was in this house with us. There was so much to worry about. Too much. “Are we even safe here?”

  “I don’t believe Daniel knew where you guys were staying, but that doesn’t mean they won’t find out.” Miles dragged a hand over his head. “Shit. What am I going to tell his wife?”

  “Do you think she knew of his actions?” Faye asked.

  “I want to say no, but hell, I never saw it coming with Daniel. She could be in on it too.” Shoulders tensed, he looked away. “I need to get in contact with someone at the New Orleans branch. I need to . . .”

  He needed to make sure they were alive.


  I couldn’t let myself think of those I knew—those I cared about possibly being dead. If I went down that hellish hole, I would probably never resurface.

  Miles turned to me, and for the second time that night, I could see emotion in his expression. It was sorrow this time, deep sorrow. “What you did back there? With Daniel? You had to.”

  I blinked and swallowed against the sudden burn.

  “I just want you to know that.” Miles shuddered with a sigh as he looked at Faye and Kalen. “It’s just us now.”

  Kalen lifted his chin. “We can’t stay here long. The Prince might’ve put her through the wall, but it wouldn’t have killed her. Wouldn’t have even taken her out of commission for that long.”

  “The Queen.” Faye let out a ragged breath. “I can’t believe it. This whole time it was Breena.”

  “If I didn’t need any more reason to hate her.” I rubbed at my hip with my palm. “What I don’t get is if Breena was always the Queen, then how was I able to overpower her that one time?”

  “I think you caught her off-guard.” A weak smile graced Faye’s lips, but it faded quickly. “I don’t think she ever expected you to attack. I thought it was just Breena’s arrogance. In reality, it was the Queen’s arrogance.”

  I still couldn’t fathom how we didn’t know that she was the Queen, but then again, as an Order member, Ren and I were raised and trained to believe that there were no courts, no princes, no queens. We’d been led to believe that they were nothing but dust.

  I started to pace.

  “We need to address something far more important at the moment,” Ren said. “What in the hell are we going to do with him? Are we seriously just going to let him roam around? He—”

  “I know, Ren. But I am telling you that man in there is not Drake—not anymore.” Faye sat down on one of the thickly cushioned chairs. “That is the older brother of Fabian. The heir to the Summer Court. In all reality, he should be the King.”

  I gave a curt shake of my head. I didn’t even know what to say to all of that. “And where is the real Drake? I’m assuming he was real, wasn’t he? Tink saw him once in the Otherworld.”

  “He must’ve died in the war,” Kalen answered. “And Queen Morgana instilled Fabian’s brother in his place.”

  “And none of you knew this?” Ren demanded.

  “We did not grow up in the Otherworld,” Faye said, shaking her head. “We never saw Drake or Fabian’s brother. We wouldn’t have known. We saw what the Queen wanted us to see. Someone who could pass as Drake. That is how powerful her enchantment is.”

  If Tink had seen him in the Otherworld before the Great War, then how old was Tink really? Geez. But that wasn’t important.
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