Stitched(Rylee Adamson #8.5)(1) by Shannon Mayer
The wind coursed around us, over Blaz’s wings and then swirling through my hair. Another day, perhaps the cold would have chilled me deep into my bones. But not that day.
Not with having said goodbye to Liam. Not with having to leave him behind in the fire, burning so that we might live.
We. I clutched my middle, still processing that I was pregnant.
Zane, Milly’s child, snuggled into his blankets and I held him tightly. His green eyes were wide as they took in the clouds blistering past us. He wore the fire opal, which kept his tiny body warm against that cold, and holding him, I caught the tail end of that heat. I touched his forehead, running my finger down the bridge of his nose, his skin so very soft. His green eyes blinked closed and then slowly opened. I did it again, twice more and his eyes stayed closed. At least he was safe now; Orion wouldn’t find him. Wouldn’t be able to possess him.
I lay my right hand on my mid-section once more while I cradled Zane with my left arm. How could it be that I was so oblivious to my own body over the last few months? Looking back, I could see the signs. The excess fatigue, the strange nausea now and again, the way my heart was so damn tender.
Blaz’s voice was gentle as he spoke directly to me, leaving the others with us out of the conversation. How could you know when you were so busy fighting for your life, for the lives of your friends? I didn’t hear her speak until Liam told you. Rylee, you had other things far more pressing.
I blinked back tears—ah, fuck it. No one could see them anyway. Erik was in front of me, his broad back taking the brunt of the cold air, and then Coyote was behind me. Being a Guardian like Liam had been, his body ran hot, and between the two men, and Zane with his fire opal, I was not that uncomfortable.
But . . . her? I focused my thoughts on Blaz. Are you sure I’m having a girl?
He tipped his head back and to the side so I could see his eye. Yes. She was staying quiet at the request of her father so as to not give you another thing to worry about.
A sob rippled up in my chest and I buried my head against my uncle’s back. Erik reached back and patted my leg. “It will be okay, no matter how bad it is now. If we aren’t done, if we aren’t in the ground it isn’t over, and we will find a way to make it okay.”
We flew away from England, away from my friends and allies, to a place only Coyote knew. A place that, according to Liam, was cut out from the world and would allow me the time to give birth. To have our child without worrying about a demon attempting to posses her or Zane.
Tian Shan, Blaz said. Don’t say it out loud, but that is the place we go. A place of safety that even a Tracker couldn’t find.
I let his words slide through me, my mind latching onto what he was saying. “Like the castle, with Peter’s wolf pack.”
The dragon tipped his head, far enough that I could see him again. Yes. A pocket cut out of the world, cut out of even the veil in order to be a place of safety. On that note, we need to stop and pick up someone. Someone who promised to help.
I didn’t realize how long we’d been flying with my grief and thoughts consuming me. Now that I looked, we were over a rather familiar section of land. Still, there was nothing but snow, trees and mountains, but I recognized the wide open field we were coming up to.
“Not the clearing.” I whispered, knowing Blaz would hear me no matter how quiet I was. He didn’t slow, but instead flew past the open field which allowed me to breathe again. The clearing, where Liam had made love to me in the snow, where we’d started our last real adventure together. If I’d known then that I would lose him, I would have fought to stay there, hidden in the forest. To hide in the wilderness of Russia and let the world go to hell in a poorly woven hand basket.
Screw the world, I wanted my love back.
My arms trembled as I held little Zane, and I had to force myself to breathe, to gain some semblance of control over myself.
That’s why he didn’t tell you.
“I don’t fucking well care the reasons why, he’s still dead!” I screamed into the wind. Behind me, Coyote jumped, but Erik didn’t move a muscle. Zane’s eyes opened and he started to cry. I bent my head over him, rocking him gently, guilt and grief warring with one another. Coyote handed me a bottle. I put it against the fire opal to heat it and then popped it into the still screaming baby’s mouth.
No one corrected me for yelling and waking Zane, nor did they tell me to shut the fuck up. Of course, Erik had known Liam’s plan. As had Coyote.
And Doran, he’d known too, the bastard. The only question I had was, who had killed Liam?
Who had wielded the copper knife that’d sliced through all that made Liam a Guardian and allowed his blood to flow, sealing shut the veil? And what would I do to them? He’d asked them to do it, whoever it was, that much was truth.
Right now though, that was the least of my worries, much as I hated to admit it, even to myself.
A groan slipped out of me and I leaned forward again, pressing my face against Erik’s back. I wasn’t alone, but maybe I wanted to be. To grieve without everyone’s eyes on me, to see their pity and sorrow leaking from them like water through a sieve.
The ground rushed up and I braced for the impact, but Blaz landed lightly, hopping once to ease the landing.
In front of us, a snow-covered field led up to what had been a run down castle the last time I’d been there. Which wasn’t that long ago. But now, the castle fairly glistened in the weak winter sun. Figures dashed about on the turrets, and from the moat near the gate, a triangular head lifted from the water. The water dragon’s scales caught the light and flashed blue and silver, not all that different from Blaz’s coloring really.
I tightened my arms around Zane, who let out a content sigh, burped, and went back to sleep. “Who are we picking up?”
He said her name and she was running across the field, her parents behind her, yelling. Somehow those little legs outran her parents with ease, even when her father shifted into his wolf form.
“No, we can’t take another child!” I did my best to keep my voice low.
“Not your choice, niece,” Erik said, his voice soft. “We all make choices and even though she is young, her soul is older than all of ours combined. Catya will make her own decisions.”
The little girl scrambled up Blaz’s leg, her mother and father, Peter, skidding to a stop.