My blood, red as a freshly picked rose, bubbled up from the center of my palm like my hand was some kind of volcano of freaking doom.
I was the halfling.
It had been me—it had always been me. And Ren—oh my God—Ren was here to find and kill me, because the prince of the mother freaking Otherworld was free in the mortal realm. The Prince was here to knock up a halfling, to make an apocalypse baby . . . with me.
I was going to vomit.
Like all over the hardwood floors of my bedroom.
I was having trouble breathing as I lifted my gaze. “Why? Why didn’t you tell me?”
Tink’s gossamer wings fluttered silently as he drifted closer. The damn brownie. The damn brownie I’d found in Saint Louis Cemetery. The brownie I’d made a Popsicle leg brace for and whose torn wing I had carefully wrapped gauze around. The damn brownie I let live in my apartment for the last two and a half years and hadn’t killed yet for spending a fortune of my money on Amazon like he belonged on an episode of Hoarders. The damn brownie was about to get punt kicked into another dimension.
He clasped his hands together in front of his shirt, which was covered with powdered sugar. Sprinkles of white covered his face like he’d face-planted into a pile of coke.
“I didn’t think it would ever come to this,” he said.
I lifted my hand, feeling wet warmth cascade down my arm. “Well, it did come to this, like right now.”
Tink floated to the left. “I thought we’d closed all the gates, Ivy. We had no idea there was a second gate here. We believed that there was no chance of any of the royal court or the prince or princess coming through. It was a non-issue.”
Lowering my hand, I shook my head. “Guess what, Tink. It’s not a non-issue. It’s a huge, Godzilla-sized issue!”
“I can see that now.” He flew over to the bed and landed on my comforter. “I never meant to lie to you.”
I frowned as I turned around. “I hate to break it to you, Tink, but if you don’t mean to lie to someone, you simply don’t lie to them.”
“I knooow.” He drew the word out as he walked to the edge of the bed, his bare feet digging into the purple, chenille bedspread and most likely spreading powdered sugar everywhere. “But you wouldn’t have believed me if I had told you, would you? Not like I had a thorn stake lying around.”
Okay. He had a point there. “But when I first brought it up to you, you could’ve said something.”
Tink lowered his chin.
I took a deep breath. “Did you know what I was when you saw me?”
“Yes,” he said, and continued in a rush, “but it wasn’t on purpose. You finding me was a fluke. A coincidence. Or it was fate. I like to think it was our destiny.”
“You can stop there.” It hurt, knowing that he hadn’t been upfront with me this entire time, and it burned deep in my gut and chest. I didn’t know who he was.
I didn’t know who I was anymore.
“I didn’t know until you got near and I sensed the weak fae blood in you. But you’re right. I should’ve told you, Ivy-divy. You’re right, but I was afraid . . . I was afraid of what you’d do.” Tink suddenly threw himself backward onto the bedspread, little arms and legs spread out. “I didn’t want to upset you, because you helped me out, and I didn’t want you to do something rash if I did tell you.”
“What could I have done?” A ball of emotion knotted in my throat. “What can I do?”
He raised limp noodle arms. “You could’ve, I don’t know, hurt yourself.”
My mouth dropped open, causing me to wince as the bruised and swollen skin along the left side of my face pulled taut. Hurt myself? I looked down at the thorn stake lying on the floor. “No,” I whispered, bending down and picking up the stake. Using my shirt, I wiped the blood off the tip. “I don’t want to die.”
“That’s good to hear.” Tink was sitting up, arms still at his sides.
I placed the stake on the dresser, next to my iron ones and the daggers. “I wouldn’t hurt myself, Tink.”
“But you would try to leave.” Tink was closer, in the air behind me.
I drew in a deep breath that did nothing to help me. Leave? Was that the next course of action? I stepped away from the dresser, avoiding Tink, which was harder than it should’ve been for someone that was only the size of a Barbie doll. Weary to the core, I walked to the edge of the bed and sat down. The weariness wasn’t just due to the numerous injuries that were slowly healing.
My thoughts were spinning too fast. I closed my eyes and eased onto my back, letting my legs dangle off the bed as panic sliced through my belly. The very idea of leaving had my heart jumping all over the place. Leaving New Orleans meant leaving the Order, and that was huge. One simply couldn’t just up and leave the Order. It was tantamount to going AWOL from the military. There’d be APB put out on me. Other Order members would be on the lookout, and there were sects in every state. I’d only be able to hide for so long. If I up and left, David would suspect I was a traitor like . . . like Val, and he’d contact other sect leaders. But it was more than my duty to the Order that made me hesitant to leave—way more.
Hell, my duty to the Order dictated that I turn myself over to them, and it wasn’t even that. For the first time in my life, the sudden reluctance to do the right thing had nothing to do with my duty.
It had everything to do with Ren.
Leaving meant walking away from him, and the mere thought of doing that caused my heart to end up somewhere down near my dangling feet. I loved him. God, I loved him more than I loved pralines and beignets, and that was hardcore, because my love of sugary, sweet things rivaled the most epic love stories known to man. Thinking of never seeing him again made me want to curl into a ball, and that would be incredibly stupid, because I’m pretty sure, with my busted ribs, it would hurt like hell.