Home > Brave (A Wicked Trilogy #3)(3)

Brave (A Wicked Trilogy #3)(3)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Last night, I found myself here after leaving Ren in the room. I was here again, a handful of hours later, because running usually made my brain shut down. When I ran like this, pushing my body until my calves burned, my thighs ached, and my heart raced, there was little room left to think and dwell on the weeks of my life I’d lost—the weeks I’d spent with the Prince.

I normally didn’t think about the horrid dress he made me wear or the way I’d been chained to a bed. When I ran until my muscles felt like rubber about to snap, I could ignore the insidious hunger gnawing in my gut—the kind of hunger that no amount of beignets or crawfish would succor.

When I ran to the point that my thighs felt like blocks of cement, I didn’t think about how the Prince had forced me to feed on innocent people. I didn’t hear the whimpers they made when my sneakers were thundering off the treadmill. I didn’t feel the euphoria that had come from feeding.

And when I ran until it felt like my chest was on fire, I didn’t have the space left to think about what that bitch Breena had done with Ren. Or what the Prince had done to me . . . had tried to do to me.

Keeping my thoughts locked down was top priority at the moment, but running wasn’t working for me now.

I needed to focus on something—anything.

My gaze flickered over the wall. There were several mounted TVs, but they were all turned off. I’d never actually seen a fae work out in here. I honestly didn’t know if they needed to work out.

Did that mean they couldn’t get things like heart disease?

Why was I even thinking—

The treadmill’s belt suddenly stopped under my feet, pitching me forward. I slammed my hands down on the rails, catching myself seconds from knocking my head off the control panel.

“Jesus,” I grunted, lifting my gaze.

Tink stood beside me, holding onto the emergency cord. “Good afternoon, Ivy-Divy. I’m happy to see your reflexes are still on point.”

Standing, I let go of the rails and turned to him as I dragged in deep breaths.

“But your observation skills suck ass,” he added, cradling the gray sling he wore over his shoulders with one hand. “I reached right in front of you and unplugged that thing.”

“You’re an asshole.” My chest rose and fell heavily.

He smiled proudly. “I am many things. An asshole is one of them.”

One of these days I was going to straight-up murder Tink. And I had a lot of reasons to act like it was time to Purge when it came to him. Starting off with the fact that up until recently, I thought Tink was about the size of a Ken doll. That’s how I’d found the damn brownie in the St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 , suffering from a broken leg and a tear in his fragile, gossamer wings. He’d been about a foot tall, if that.

I’d made him a leg brace out of popsicle sticks and nursed the little punk-ass back to life even though harboring any creature from the Otherworld would’ve gotten me killed. I still really don’t know why I’d saved him. I just felt so bad for him, but maybe the part of me that was fae had taken over, caring for another creature of the Otherworld. Who knows? And how did he thank me for it? Spent my money on bizarre, random shit he ordered off of Amazon Prime, hid from me that I was a halfling, and forgot to mention that he chose to be only twelve inches tall. That, in fact, Tink was very, very tall.

And totally anatomically correct.

Seeing Tink all man-sized never failed to wig me out, because I never thought of Tink in that way. Not only had he seen me in my undies a hundred times when he was miniature size, there was now a lot more of Tink, and. . . .

And adult size Tink was . . . hot.

Acknowledging that made me puke a little in my mouth, but it was true. When he was small, he had this cute, handsome little face and he was just Tink, and now that he was all big, that cute little face had broad cheekbones and his body was ripped and . . .


I screwed up my face. Seeing Tink like this still messed with my head, but I guess at the end of the day he was still Tink, and even though I wanted to bitch slap him into the Otherworld often, I sort of . . . I don’t know . . . loved him.

Not that I’d ever tell him that.

Tink’s hair was so blond it was almost white, and today he had it spiked. He was wearing jeans and a thermal. He must’ve grabbed one of the towels on the way in, because he held one in his free hand. I glanced at the bottom of the sling, where a little ball was curled up. He’d taken to carrying Dixon—his new pet kitten—around in a sling that I was pretty sure was designed for human babies—

Wait a second.

My eyes narrowed on the gray thermal Tink had on. “Are you wearing Ren’s shirt?”

“Yeah. I think it will endear me to him. Help us bond so we can be like brothers from a different mother.”

“Uh. Doubtful.” Ren was going to be pissed. “That’s also a little weird.”

“Why? Girls share clothing all the time.”

“Yeah, the key word is share, Tink. You just took his shirt.” I couldn’t believe I had to explain this. “Is that towel for me?”

“Yeah. You look like you’ve been swimming in a swamp.” He threw it at me. “But at least you don’t look like you popped an eyeball anymore.”

“Thanks,” I muttered, wiping the towel over my face. When I made my escape from the mansion, one of the Prince’s minions had tried to choke the ever-loving life out of me. I’d burst a blood vessel in my eye during the struggle. It was just as gross to think about as it was to look at.

Valor, the Prince’s minion, was a goner though. Ren had taken him out. That was one Ancient we didn’t need to worry about.

“I can’t believe you’re in the gym again,” Tink went on, stepping aside. “Why are you in here running so much? Are you preparing for the impending zombie apocalypse that I know nothing about? Because if you are, we need to find the nearest redneck to become best friends with, one that is hot in a dirty, rugged way. You know, the kind that probably smells like sweat and man, one with a complex background that makes you hate him at first, but slowly, over time, you grow to love him.”

I stared at him. “You’ve put a lot of thought into this.”

“I have. I like to be prepared. Since we’re in the south, it shouldn’t be hard to find one. So, why are you in the gym so much?” he asked, not missing a beat.

“What else do I have to do?” I draped the towel around my neck as I watched the little ball at the bottom of the sling start to move around.

“I don’t know.” Tink patted the outside of the sling and got a tiny, muffled meow in return. “You could spend time with some of the peeps here. They’re pretty cool.”

“You think they’re cool because they worship you.”

His smile was so wide it could’ve cracked his face. “Well, yes, there’s that. They’re smart.”

Most of the fae here had never seen a brownie. The Prince and the Winter Court basically killed off Tink’s kind.

“You could also spend time with Merle or Brighton,” he added. “Momma Merle is almost always out in the courtyard, digging up something or planting something. She’s interesting. Weird. But weird can be entertaining, and Merle is entertaining. And I like Brighton.” He paused. “I don’t think she likes me. Actually, I’m pretty sure she’s kind of scared of me.”

I arched a brow. Tink sure did like to ramble.

“She sort of goes in the opposite direction of wherever I’m going.” His lips pursed. “Just this morning, I was in the common room. You know, the room you never hang out in, but anyway, I digress. The room has all these cool games and couches and shit. I was in there, winning a mean game of air hockey, and Brighton walked in, made eye contact with me, and then walked right back out. I don’t understand why. I’m super friendly and approachable. I also know that I’m damn good looking by human standards, too.”

I decided not to point out all the ways he probably freaked out Brighton, because that was a rabbit hole I did not want to fall down. Besides, I needed a shower stat, because I did feel like I’d been swimming in a swamp. I stepped off the treadmill, and the moment my feet hit the ground, my entire world wobbled. “Whoa.”

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