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Stitched(Rylee Adamson #8.5)(10) by Shannon Mayer

“Me, too.”

Then what’s different this time?

“I Tracked with everything I had,” I said, my hands finding Peta’s fur, burying into the thick warmth. This was new, my abilities were still changing and shifting. A blessing or a curse? Which would it turn out to be? For now, it was a blessing I’d take.

We had a long flight ahead of us; Spider was on an island in the southern Pacific. I knew that much. I clung to the threads I’d tied to her, afraid if I let go, I wouldn’t be able to find her again. High above the earth, the wind was icy against my skin, yet I was running hot, the effort of Tracking, forcing myself to keep her tightly to me. Behind me, the snow leopard pressed herself against my back and a curl of energy sank into me. I turned to look at her. “What are you?”

She is an elemental’s familiar. From what she’s told me, her elemental was taken from her, punished for saving a child that would have otherwise died.

“That’s not right,” I said, sliding a hand over Peta’s head. A tear trickled from her green eye and down her thick fur. “You miss her.”

They’ve been separated for almost thirty years.

My heart lurched at the thought of being cut off from Alex for thirty years. Though he was not my familiar, I didn’t doubt he was tied to me. And I’d left him behind. I grabbed the ruff around Peta’s neck and buried my face in her fur. “I’m sorry for you. And for my stupidity.”

Rylee, you did what you had to do. Alex has a place in this world, and sometimes it is not at your side. Other times, it will be glued to your leg. You know that. And before you give voice to it, let me preemptively cut you off. He will forgive you, you have to know that. You have to protect your daughter, and you and I both know Alex blurts things out. What would happen if he blurted out Tian Shan’s name? The sanctity of the place would be lost and all those who have taken sanctuary would be at risk. Liam was right to have you leave Alex behind.

I didn’t like that Blaz was right. Alex, as good as he was for me, would not have been good here. This was not an adventure I could take him on.

“And Peta is safe to bring along?”

She can’t talk to you directly without an elemental to make the connection for the two of you, but she is not like Alex. As a familiar, she acts like a conscience and a protector. And she has decided you need her help.

A smile flitted across my lips. “Thanks, Peta.”

She butted her head against my cheek and let out a soft purr. I had to admit, it was nice to have a large, warm, furry body with me, even if it wasn’t Alex. “Upside, no dog farts.”

Peta snorted and her lips turned up as she winked at me. Yeah, that was an upside for sure.

Try to sleep, Rylee. This will be a long trip and I know where I’m going. If you lose the thread of Spider, it doesn’t matter. I have her pinpointed.

Peta curled around me, and I closed my eyes, still clinging to the threads, despite what Blaz said. I wasn’t sure I could do it again, find Spider across the water. Maybe it was a fluke I’d managed it once. Or maybe it was another sign of my growing abilities.

I closed my eyes, and drifted off to sleep, my thoughts circling back through my life, which was why I think I ended up reaching out to Berget. She was my little sister. I hadn’t forgotten her, and I knew she was struggling with her own demons as I fought with my grief.

The dream took me in an instant and I knew it for what it was, at least. I stood on the docks in Boston, where Berget and I faced down our mother—her biological mother, my adoptive mother. Where I’d finally shed the last of my guilt over Berget going missing. Where I’d finally gained the closure I needed on my past so I could make the best decisions for my own child.

Berget stood as still as a statue in the middle of the snow covered dock, the only thing telling me that she lived was the flowing blond tresses and long skirt blowing around her bare, pale legs.

“You shouldn’t have come here.”

Stepping toward her, I took my chances. “You’re my sister. I love you, Berget.”

“They are so strong in me, Rylee. I don’t know what is me and what is them anymore.” She turned her head to look at me over her shoulder. Tears streaked her cheeks, freezing as they slid down her skin. “I don’t want to hurt anyone, I never did want to hurt anyone.”

I then realized I was in a dream, yet it was real at the same time. Across the harbor the sky glowed softly. The sun was rising, and Berget stood on the dock, ready to die.

“Don’t do this.” I ran to her, grabbing her arms, knowing in the dream I was safe. I crushed her to my chest, holding her tightly. “Please, Berget. I can’t take another death, I can’t. Liam’s gone, and I have nothing. I can’t keep losing those I love, my hope is shattered.”

Her blue eyes were closed as she leaned against me, but she didn’t lift her arms to hold me. “I know, I know he died. I felt it in the world, there was not a death that could have rocked the veil as his did. He did it to protect you, to protect his child.”

I held her away from me, my hands on her shoulders. “You knew?”

“I wasn’t sure, and he asked me not to say anything. And then I didn’t have a choice, they have been growing stronger. You know that’s why I left, don’t you?” She opened her eyes, begging me to understand.

“We could have helped you. Maybe we could have found another opal.” I touched the spot in her chest where we’d buried the precious stone that kept the two ancient vampires she carried within her at bay. But even that hadn’t been enough.

She covered my hand with one of hers. “No, there is nothing left. I was given a brief moment that was my own, to see you, to love my family for a short time. But that was all. I can do nothing now but try to keep them from doing more damage with my body to the world. To you.”

Behind me, I felt the sun rising and panic nipped at me. “Another day or two, you can at least do that much, can’t you? Berget, the last battle is coming, the final reckoning. I need you there at my side, fighting with me against Orion.”

She pried my hands from her and gently pushed me away. “And if I turn on you in the last moments? If they decide that Orion should have you? What then?” Berget shook her head. She had made her decision, but I wouldn’t let her go without a fight.

“I need your help, Berget. Please. I need the blood of a vampire, someone I can trust.” I stood between her and the rising sun, my shadow the only thing keeping her shaded. “Berget, help me.”