Home > Brave (A Wicked Trilogy #3)(7)

Brave (A Wicked Trilogy #3)(7)
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

That kind of took the fun right out of the cold snap.

Stopping at the pathway, I folded my arms over my waist and listened. It was strange. There was the distant sound of laughter and conversation coming from the inside of Hotel Good Fae. But there were no sirens. No blaring horns. New Orleans never slept and it was never quiet. Not like this. It had to be the fae. They had magical sound-blocking talents or something.

Damn, if they could bottle and sell that?

I found my way to the swing and sat, using my toes to push myself. Unfolding my arms, I placed my hands on my thighs and closed my eyes. My stomach churned, causing me to suck in a sharp breath.

I was so damn hun—


Opening my eyes, I exhaled long and slow. I looked around, taking in the fully bloomed irises while I ignored the tremor rolling up and down my arms. Then I did what I did every night.


Every muscle in my body locked up, squeezing my chest and throat until I thought I might vomit.

Drake. Drake. Drake.

I repeated the Prince’s name over and over in my head. I kept saying it until some of the tension eased up and the pressure receded from my chest. I said his name until I didn’t want to hurl any longer.

These mental gymnastics were harder than running on a treadmill. Desensitization. Because how would I face Drake if the mere thought of his name made me want to puke?

Shivering as sharp wind picked up, I looked around the courtyard. The flowers stirred and the lights swayed. The place was as empty as I felt, and dammit, I hated that—hated this.

Because this wasn’t me.

It wasn’t who I was.

So what in the hell was I doing out here? I should be inside—I should be talking to Ren. We were a team. Partners. Lovers. Friends. I needed to talk to him. Tell him what I was feeling, because if I just got those words out, I knew he’d help me make sense of them. I needed to tell him about the incessant hunger.

I could talk to him about it. I could talk to someone, tell them—tell Ren—that I didn’t feel like myself. That somehow I’d lost who Ivy Morgan was.

Because I couldn’t keep doing what I’d been doing, roaming aimlessly and hiding. That wasn’t brave at all, but most importantly, it wasn’t smart.

I knew enough from the Psych 101 class I’d taken at Loyola that sometimes talking to someone was the best medicine out there. It might not fix all the messiness in my head, but it had to help. It was the first step in the whole healing and dealing with trauma thing. Putting what I was feeling into words was like cutting out that darkness inside me.

I would find Ren and I would talk. I would definitely say something of freaking value.

Standing up from the swing, I hurried inside and back down the hall, walking by several closed doors while I kept my gaze off the fae that passed me. None of them ever approached me when we crossed paths. Most didn’t even look in my direction. I wondered if they treated Ren the same—if it was because we were Order members or if it was because I was the Halfling.

That was a question probably best left unanswered.

As I neared one of the large common areas, I heard something that brought me to a complete stop.

I heard Ren’s laughter.

Drawn to it in a way that was almost uncontrollable, I inched along the wall like a total creeper. Stopping just before the wide archway that led into the room, I leveled up on the whole creeper thing and peered inside.

Tink was the first person I saw, and I was kind of shocked that he was in the room with a laughing and non-murderous Ren.

Tink was sitting on the arm of the couch, near a very uncomfortable Brighton. Her blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail, like always. Brighton was in her mid-thirties, but she looked like she was a decade younger, having this ageless quality about her, much like her mother.

Sitting beside Brighton was a fae I’d met on the night I’d escaped the Prince. He had fair hair, so I knew it was Kalen. Tink claimed he couldn’t tell Kalen apart from Dane, the other fae that had been part of Rescue Ivy Operation, but Dane had dark hair, so I had no idea why he had so much difficulty.

Ren was sitting in a chair, his profile to the doorway. He was leaning back, an ankle resting on his knee, a cheek planted on a fist. He was smiling and his shoulders were loose. His entire body appeared that way. Ren looked . . . relaxed.

I hadn’t seen him look like that since . . . since I told him I was the Halfling. Of course, the next time I’d seen him it hadn’t been him but the Prince pretending to be him. Ren had been captured the same night I broke the news to him. I didn’t see the ‘real’ Ren again until the Prince took me to the cell where they’d been holding him.

Biting on my lip, my gaze slipped from him to Faye. She was in her human form. Dark hair. Rich brown skin. Beautiful. She was perched on the arm of Ren’s chair.

I started to taste blood in my mouth.

Letting go of my lip, I crossed my arms as Faye smiled down at Ren like they were all buddy-buddy.

I mean, not that I was jealous, but I guessed scouting together was a great way to bond. That was how Ren and I grew close—okay, I stopped that line of thought before I ran into the common room, grabbed Faye by her hair, and ripped her off the arm of the chair.

Tink would totally approve since he loved drama of all kinds.

There were other fae in the room with them, ones I didn’t recognize, but my gaze crawled its way back to Tink and Ren.

They looked so . . . well-adjusted, like this was a normal night, any day of the week. Happy even, and most importantly, they were at ease. Neither of them were that way around me. Not even Tink. Sure, he was Tink, but even he sometimes seemed like he was walking on eggshells around me.

Talking to Ren about everything took a back seat. The last thing he needed at the moment was to deal with my emo bullshit, because he’d been through some nasty stuff too and he needed moments like this. Moments where he could just relax and be normal and not dwell on what happened to him—to us.

I didn’t want to take that from him.

I stepped back and turned around, starting toward the elevators when I stopped. Where was I going? Sighing, I pivoted and made my way back to the courtyard. After being held in that damn room at the Prince’s mansion for weeks, I didn’t want to be cooped up in yet another room. It was chilly outside, but I preferred goosebumps over four walls and a door.

Following the pathway once more, I let my fingers trail across the leafy vines that all but covered the archway. Outside of this place, the vines and flowers were starting to die because of the cold spell, but everything was alive here. Enchanted. Maybe that was why I found it so peaceful? I moved further into the garden, further away from Hotel Good Fae.


Startled by the voice, I turned with a slight frown. A male fae stood several feet from me. I hadn’t seen him before, but he appeared to be around my age. I glanced over my shoulder. Of course, no one stood there. I faced the fae, surprised since none of them ever spoke to me. “Me?”

The fae’s hands opened and closed at his sides. “You’re the only person standing here, right?”

Wow. Okay, that was some unnecessary attitude. “Yeah, but I have a name and it’s not ‘hey.’”

His jaw tightened and those pale blue eyes were practically on fire as he stepped forward. “I know what your name is, but it doesn’t matter. Your name is irrelevant.”

“Whoa.” I barked out a short laugh. “Aren’t you warm and fuzzy?”

He ignored the comment. “Why are you here?”

That seemed like a stupid question. “Well, it’s kind of a long story, but I can give you the version for dummies if you’d like?”

The fae sneered. “We all know what you are and what that means. That’s all we need to know.”

Inwardly, my entire body cringed, but I kept my expression blank as I moved toward him. No way was I going to let him know that bothered me. “I knew I shouldn’t have updated my Facebook status to halfling.”

His lips peeled back. “You stand there as if this is all a joke, in a place sacred to us, while putting all of our lives in danger? I’m glad you can find the humor in this.”

All the snappy responses died on the tip of my tongue. “How am I putting your lives in danger? Look, just because I belonged to the Order doesn’t mean I’m seconds away from killing you all.”

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