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Stitched(Rylee Adamson #8.5)(6) by Shannon Mayer

Feeling footwear was not necessary, or maybe more importantly, not welcome, I slid my boots off and stepped into the courtyard. The ground was warm and soft against my feet, the sense of belonging and calm that slid from the earth and into my body was more than welcome. I let out a sigh.

“The easy flows through the soul, does it not, Tracker?”

I lifted my head to see Bao in front of me, his hands clasped.

“How did someone so young come to run the show here?”

He smiled and gave a slight nod of his head. “Youth does not preclude wisdom. But that is not the question you have for me, is it?”

Damn, he was good. “Why can’t I Track here?”

Bao beckoned me to walk with him and we started around the edge of the unnatural garden side by side. “The walls and grounds were blessed a thousand years ago to be a safe haven for those seeking sanctuary. The catch was that all within would have their abilities dampened. To keep them from using such abilities on each other.”

“Catya can still shift,” I pointed out as she bounced out of a bush in front of us, her teeth bared at a flower.

“That is her nature, not an ability. The difference is slight, but it still stands. You have all your limbs while you are here, as she has all of hers, even if one of those limbs involves four feet and a tail.”

I chewed my bottom lip, thinking about what Daisy said.

“You have another question.” He didn’t look at me, just kept walking slowly, hands tucked inside of the sleeves of his voluminous robe.

“I want to have this baby sooner than later.”

Bao’s eyebrows dipped low. “So you can go back to your life?”

I stopped, forcing him to stop and face me. “No. So I can have time with her before I have to go and face Orion.”

Damn, I was really spilling the beans. More so than I’d ever done with someone I’d just met. Again, he seemed to know what I was thinking even though I said nothing.

“Your secrets are safe here, Tracker. And to have your pregnancy sped up for your own convenience I would not help you. But for saving the world, and spending time with your daughter before you have to leave her, well, that is different.”

A weight lifted from my shoulders. “Who do I have to find to help me, and what will they want in exchange?”

“There are three old women who live at the base of the mountain. They can help you. But their price is often higher than those seeking help wish to pay.” His eyes softened around the edges, and he reached out to take my hand, cupping it between his two. “Be careful if you choose to ask for their help.”

Backing away from him, I nodded. Leaving Bao and Catya in the unnatural garden, I made my way to my room.

The cat was awake, her paws tucked under her as she stared at me, eyes half mast. I lifted an eyebrow at her. “You got something to say, cat?”

She yawned and stretched her back, then shook her head. Almost like she was really answering me. Without so much as a meow, she left me in my room alone. Which didn’t last long.

A rap of knuckles on the door and then Erik strode in. “I know you’re pissed at me, but you can’t ignore your responsibilities.” He pulled a large violet-skinned book from under his leather trench coat and handed it to me. My fingertips tingled as I took the tome.

“I’ll read it, I promise, Uncle,” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm.

“You’d best. Because that is the only guide you have to defeating a demon who has killed everyone and everything in his path to get where he is”—he reached out and tapped the book with an index finger—“this is the only hope the world has that you will figure out what you need to do.”

I grimaced. “Thanks for the reminder.” I slid the book off my lap and slowly stood. “Before I get to my homework, though, I have something I need to do.”

“You do mean to speed up the pregnancy, then?”

I let out a slow breath. “Yeah, that.”

Did I even have another choice? There was barely enough time as it was, even with Liam’s sacrifice. So that was that. I would do this thing, and pray to all the gods I didn’t kill myself or the child in doing so.

Chapter 4

“There’s no other choice.” I brushed past him and headed down the long hallway to the front gates.

Erik dropped a heavy hand on my shoulder. “You might want to bundle up, then.”

“Can’t be that cold, I was just in a courtyard with Bao that was loaded with flowers and shit.”

“Rylee, this place is blessed and cursed in a way I never thought I’d see. It is damn cold outside these walls and you need to be warm, if not for you, then for your child.”

He was right. I let him help me find warm clothes and then we went to find Blaz.

“Hey, lizard, where are you?”

I was sleeping, thank you very much. I felt him yawn and stretch, and I headed toward him. I guess being able to talk mind to mind with Blaz was not an ability so much as something innate in me. Yes, that felt right. We found him on top corner of the monastery, curled around a turret, Ophelia wrapped up with him.

“I need a trip down the mountain. You up for a fly about?”

Not far?

“No, not far.”

With a grumble and a small blast of flame, he untangled himself and dropped to the ground in front of me. Erik and I climbed onto Blaz’s back, cinching ourselves into the leather rigging he wore.

Without asking if we were ready, the dragon launched into the air, wings sending a powerful downdraft into the monastery. A few bits of cloth were caught up in the swirl of air currents, tossed about without mercy. I knew how they felt. I wasn’t able to escape the feeling that no matter what I did, or who I helped, or who I saved, my life wasn’t my own. That the prophecies I was caught up in were too powerful even for me to face down. They’d been too much for Liam to survive, what made me think I would be any different?

Blaz flew us down the mountainside, and within minutes we landed at the base in the only available place for Blaz to land. Barely large enough for the dragon, the tree branches brushed his sides as he landed with a quiet thump, muffled by the trees around us.

“We’ll walk from here,” I said, sliding off his back and landing lightly. The warm clothes Erik had insisted on were welcome, our breath blowing billows of steam in the cold air. Around us the world was muffled, the heavy laden trees drooping under the weight of the snow.