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Stitched(Rylee Adamson #8.5)(12) by Shannon Mayer

“I’m going to get her attention and try to draw her to you,” I said, the plan forming on the spot.

And then?

I shrugged. “We try to get some venom from her while you hold her still. Sound good?”

What are you going to put the venom in, exactly?

“Damn, why are you such a plan pooper?” I pulled a silver flask out from my back pocket that I’d pinched from the monastery. “Now who’s the planning queen, eh?”

Peta, ahead of me and obviously listening in on the conversation, snickered.

I smiled. “A flask should work just fine, no?”

I could almost feel Blaz shrug, but he didn’t argue.

The closer we got to the center of the island, the closer I could feel Spider, and the more I wasn’t so sure my plan was going to work. The trees still held together for us, but attached to them were spider webs the size of a California King mattress, and most of them held still squirming animals in them. Monkeys, but a few other creatures as well. Like the hog that was hung upside down. I froze. Strike that, human, not hog. I swallowed hard. Spider was not one I would want to tangle with on a good day, no matter how desperate I was. I licked my lips. “Itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout . . . .”

Ahead of us, something big and black shifted in the treetops. “Tracker.”

Oh, shit.

We stopped where we were. “Spider, nice to see you. I need some of your venom.” Belatedly, I added, “Please.”

She scuttled down the branches, the sound of her hairy legs rustling against the leaves like a subtle whisper of dried branches brushing against a window on a deep winter’s night. She leaned toward us, her large golden orbs staring, unblinking. Creepy, creepy, creepy. I did not like this. I put my sword away as a sign of good faith. Hoping I was making a good decision.

Peta moved so she stood in front of me, the fur over her body puffing up and a low growl trickling past her lips. “Spider, did you hear me? A little of your venom and we’ll fuck off.”

“And if I don’t give you my venom, what then? Do you think to kill me like you did the Wolf?”

I bit down on the angry retort that swelled my throat and settled for shaking my head. “I’m hoping you’ll help without the use of force. And I didn’t kill him. He made his choice.”

She laughed, a high-pitched tinkling laugh that made me think of a petite woman as she entertained a man she was trying to catch. Oh, fuck.

I stepped back, Peta with me. “Time to go.” I spun, a blur of black legs flashing behind us. I didn’t stop to watch, to see how fast she was. I bolted back the way we’d come, Peta right behind me. The little bit of treetops still above us danced over our heads and it was then I realized the stupidity of my plan.

Spider was outflanking us, using the treetops to travel, and as the thought entered my head, she dropped out of the trees in front of us.

I didn’t think, just spun and leapt for the branches across the way. No point in trying to be careful. If I didn’t make it out of this alive, it wouldn’t matter to the child I carried anyway. The branches slid through my hand as I fell, digging into the flesh, tearing at my skin and stripping it from my hands.

But I slowed and only hit the ground with a mild thump. Spider let out a laugh. “Little pig, little pig, you will be a fine meal indeed.”

“Shit.”

Peta landed beside me, a muffled growl as she pawed at her face. I dropped to a knee to see her lips coated with spider web, sealing her mouth shut. I ripped it off, taking fur with it but she didn’t complain. “We’ve got to run, you think you can help open the way with your elemental mojo?”

She bobbed her head once and then took off. Above us, Spider laughed again, and I didn’t wait to see if she was climbing down. Peta ran ahead of me, dodging and leaping through the jungle, the branches pulling back just long enough to allow us to shoot through.

A branch let loose too soon and swatted me in the face, knocking me flat on my back. “Fuck!” I rolled to the side and got to my feet. Ahead of me, the path had closed off around Peta, and behind me came the skittering of eight legs scrambling along the branches.

“What’s the matter, little Tracker? You didn’t really think you could outrun me, did you?”

“I was hoping.” I spun slowly, doing my best to keep my eyes on all the parts of the jungle at once. Not an easy thing.

Need my help yet?

“Blaz, it’s about fucking time.”

Track her so I can pinpoint where she is.

I sent a thread out, tapping into Spider. I stilled. She was directly above me, but I knew the only reason she hadn’t dropped on me was the simple fact she was curious. That came through the threads loud and clear.

“Spider, why do the other Guardians not like you?” I turned, carefully, acting as if the jungle was what I searched.

“That isn’t why you’re here.” Her voice came from my left and I twisted, knowing she wasn’t there. The big bitch could throw her voice, apparently.

“No, it’s not. But I don’t think you’re going to willingly help me, are you?”

The sound of a body thumping down directly behind me brought me around, blade raised. I hadn’t expected to see a woman standing there. She was taller than me, her body angular and bony under the long sheer black see through lace dress she wore. Her skin was a burnished gold under the shift, almost matching her eyes. I lowered my blade. “Spider?”

She nodded once. “I don’t have to be a mind reader to know your dragon was going to scoop me up if I stayed in my other form. That doesn’t mean I can’t kill you like this.” She grinned and fangs lowered in her mouth to drip venom onto her chest.

I braced myself as she pulled a blade from her back. “It has been a long time since I had a taste of combat like this.” She held up her sword so it caught the light. “I’m looking forward to this.”

Without pausing, she swept the blade toward me and I caught it with my own, sliding the tip down the length of her blade to her hand, cutting into the flesh.

Snarling, she twisted her sword, blocking me and then pushing me back. “Clever girl, tell me what would make you risk your life to find me? You had to know I wouldn’t welcome a visit from the one who cut a leg off me.”

Our blades met again, the fine steel clashing as we tested each other’s strengths. “I need a few drops of your venom.”