Stopping Time, Part 2 - By Melissa Marr

—PART 2—

The tangles of panic and fear and guilt hit Irial like an unwelcome banquet. If they were anyone else’s fears, it would be a welcomed treat, but the emotions that assailed him were hers. They’d come flooding toward him over his mostly severed connection with Leslie.

No. He hadn’t figured her pursuer would enter her classroom. Most mortals didn’t escalate from a few calls to a dangerous public scene that quickly.

“Leslie needs help. Get Niall,” Irial snarled. “Now.”

Mortals paused and shuddered, but they didn’t hear. Only faeries heard his order—and he knew that Dark Court faeries would obey as quickly as they had when he was still a king.

He ran to Leslie’s classroom; she wasn’t there.

Leslie, he called, hoping that the thread that bound them was still alive enough to let her hear him. Once in a while a fleeting moment of connection flared in it. He’d felt her panic. Now he needed to feel her, to know where she was. He called louder, LESLIE.

The thread that once bound them lay silent.

Irial felt a surge of terror. In the centuries he’d led the Dark Court, Irial had only felt true terror one other time. Then, it had been Niall in danger; then, he had been useless. Now, he felt much the same: she was in danger, and he hadn’t been there to stop it.

Abject terror filled him as he ran through the streets seeking her, listening for her voice.

Then he heard her: “Ren, this is a mistake.”

Irial moved through the streets toward her voice, and just outside her door, he stopped. Leslie’s brother stood with a gun barrel shoved into her side. Irial could smell it, the bitter tang of cold steel. Steel wouldn’t kill him, nor would the copper and lead of the bullets inside the weapon. They would hurt, but faeries—especially strong ones—healed from such things. Mortals didn’t. Leslie wouldn’t.

If she were fey, he could safely pull her out of reach. If she were fey, she’d likely heal from a gunshot. She wasn’t.

Should’ve killed the boy then. He had watched over her, had guards at the ready, yet Ren had escorted her away. If I’d have killed him then… Irial winced at the thought of Niall’s pain—at our pain—if Leslie was hurt by his prior decision to let Ren live.

“I’ll remedy that mistake,” Irial murmured.

Leslie’s hand shook so much that she dropped the key.

Ren smacked her with one hand while keeping the gun steadily pressed into her side. “Pick it up. Don’t try anything, Les. Really.”

“I don’t know how you think this is going to work.” She snatched up her keys. “You think my ex is going to just show up?”

Ren gave her an unreadable look. “No. I think you’re going to find a way to reach him or one of them—I don’t care which of them—and until one of them comes through your door, we’ll sit in your dive of an apartment and wait.”

She shoved the key in the lock and glared at him. “Then prepare to wait because unlike you I don’t sacrifice other people to protect myself.”

A look of what seemed like regret crossed his face, but it passed in a breath. “We all do what we have to.”

Leslie opened the door, and for a brief moment as she stepped inside the building, the gun wasn’t against her. It didn’t last long enough to be of use.

She jumped as Ren closed the building door.

He gestured with the gun. “Up.”

“If I had said the word, he would’ve killed you,” Leslie said.

Ren followed her up the stairs. “Why didn’t you?”

“I’m not sure, Ren.” She paused on the last stair and glanced back at him. “Because real family protects each other?”

Could I push him down the stairs? Am I fast enough to get away while he falls? Letting him inside her apartment seemed like a sure way to be trapped. He’ll sleep, though. She thought about it, escaping while he slept, but then just as quickly thought about him jacked up and paranoid. He was terrible when he was strung out.

She shoved as hard as she could with both hands and then she ran.

“Bitch!” Ren cursed and stumbled.

“Pleasepleaseplease.” She jammed the key into her apartment door and slammed it behind her. She threw the bolt with a shaking hand, and then retreated farther into the apartment.

She couldn’t leave. She couldn’t be sure whether he’d shoot through the door. She couldn’t think beyond the fear wrapped around her.

Irial. She started to speak as they once had, but their metaphysical bond

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