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Stitched(Rylee Adamson #8.5)(2) by Shannon Mayer

“Do not take her, please!”

Around us the air shifted, and I tensed. “This is going to get weird.”

One of Catya’s abilities was to project images into another person’s mind, showing them what she wanted them to see and hear. A little like Blaz could, but with far more force and detail.

The scene in front of me changed to one where Catya was older, maybe in her teens, and she stood guard over the sleeping forms of two children.

A dark haired little boy.

And a copper haired little girl. Their hands were tangled together and all around them the world spun and twisted. But Catya stood firm. Guarding them.

I blinked and the image faded. Catya was beside me. I told your mate I would guard his little girl. I come now to do that.

Her mother let out a sob, but she bowed her head. “Come back to us, one day, please.”

Catya smiled. Goodbye, Mama. I will be back.

Peter let out a howl, his grizzled wolf form shuddering with what I could only assume was grief. How would I feel if my child left me?

A thought struck me hard, as if someone had thrown a rock and smashed me in my stupid head.

I was leaving my little girl in order to stop Orion. Leave her behind, in the care of others. Maybe to say goodbye and never see her again, and like me, she would have no one. A spasm went through me, tightening every muscle in my body in one horrible twist. I fought to breathe around the pain lancing through me—not a physical pain—my heart unhinging, knocking down every last barrier I had up.

Someone was sobbing, and I distantly recognized that I had finally snapped. There had been too many losses, too many pains for me to deal any longer with any sort of rationality. Arms circled me, holding me against a strong chest that I knew was my uncle’s. Blaz launched into the air and I felt him inside my head, trying to get me to allow him to help me. I blocked him, something I’d never been able to do before, forcing his thoughts out of mine.

Nothing could help me. How much would I be asked to give up, to sacrifice to stop Orion? How much could the world expect from me and think I would still be able to function?

Tears dripped off my chin, splotching onto Zane’s blanket. He slept through my breakdown, his chest rising and falling slowly. Catya reached around me to touch him, and while I could apparently keep Blaz out of my head, I couldn’t keep her out.

Will be okay. Trust in love. Liam knew this. Love is best. Let grief go.

The words of an innocent, to believe that love conquered all. “That’s bullshit, kid. You might as well learn it now, that everything you love is either taken from you or killed. That’s life, fucked up as it might be.” My words were slurred with pain, like I’d drunk a thousand bottles of grief only to find at the bottom there was no end.

Catya’s fingers tightened on my arm, and her golden eyes, so like Liam’s that I could barely breathe past seeing her, forced me to listen to her. You will see. Pain and love, they are married. But without pain, love would not be powerful like it is.

That made no fucking sense. I didn’t try to stop the tears, cradled in my uncle’s arms like a child, holding Zane close. I drifted in and out of sleep, my dreams bunched together in my head, fire and blood, pain and love, the past, present, and possible future all clamoring for my attention.

Hours past, I fed Zane several times until I began to worry we would run out of formula. That was the whole of what I could handle, feeding and loving that little boy. Milly’s boy. “Ah, fuck,” I whispered, a new wave of pain crashing over me. I’d thought I’d seen her die, splayed out on the floor of Orion’s castle. But now I knew the truth; Orion had staunched her blood and kept her alive. To use her again. To make her a tool for him. “Milly.” Her name, whispered from my lips, was torn away, stolen by the icy wind.

I don’t know how long it took, but we went from flying high over mountains and through clouds, to landing in a courtyard. My eyes were fuzzy with fatigue and everything looked strange. Like I was staring at a place from a painting, the walls done in a faint orange, the footing below us interlocked tiles, each one painted with a creature. A dragon. A werewolf. A griffin. A goblin. There was a tile for every supernatural creature I’d heard of, and a few I hadn’t.

“Where are we?”

Coyote answered, sober, his voice dull. “We can say it now that we are here. Tian Shan, the one place you will be safe from Orion’s minions. From any demon left behind when the veil closed. From those who would end your life, and the life of the child you carry.”

Blaz blew out a sharp breath, fogging the air up around us. We have a problem. I am not the only dragon here.

Chapter 2

The four of us slid off Blaz’s back as he reared up and spread his wings. His neck arched back as if he would blast the intruder with his flames. A flash of red and gold, violet eyes, and a wingspan that matched Blaz’s, stunned me. A dragon, yes, but one we knew well. “Ophelia, what the fuck are you doing here?”

The female dragon ducked her head, drawing closer, but keeping her body in a submissive posture. I came here to heal.

Blaz snorted. You mean to hide.

Her violet eyes blazed and she slammed her head upward and into his exposed throat, sending him tumbling backward. I may no longer have a rider, but I can still kick your ass, Blaz.

Their argument was broadcasted to all of us by the look on Erik’s and Coyote’s faces. Erik was fighting a smile, and Coyote just shook his head as he muttered, “Dragons.”

With my feet on the ground, I took a good look around. We were in a monastery, the stone walls rising higher than the dragons’ heads. The walls—that deep orange color I’d first seen through hazy eyes—stood out against the snow and ice covering the tops of them. The monastery was large. Bigger than I would have expected, that was for sure. From what I could see, it covered several acres of the mountainside it was built into, and we were in the main courtyard, if the large gated doors behind us were any indication.

Zane started to fuss and I rocked him gently. “It’s all right, little man. You’re safe here.” A weight I didn’t know had been on my shoulders slid off and I let out a breath that felt as though I’d been holding it for days, maybe weeks. “You’re safe.”

The sound of running feet snapped my head up and I crouched with Zane in my arms, holding him with my left and pulling a sword with my right. Safe we might be, but I wasn’t going to take any chances.