Tangled Web (Venin Assassin Book 2), p.2Gena D. Lutz
Syn looked at me, eyes narrowing. “I’m gonna hold you to that.” Then he, too, turned and walked out.
Edge watched his pack leave the bar before turning his gaze on me. “Maybe you’re not as bad a choice for queen as I thought you’d be, Cassis Dark, but we’ll see.”
I shook my head and took another shot. Yeah… you might see. “I still haven’t decided to accept you’re bond, hound.” I set the glass down and pushed it away with a flick of my finger. “And talk like that only makes me want to bolt.”
His lips crooked up on one side making a dimple appear deep in his cheek. “Then I’ll stop talking… for now.”
My brow rose. “Maybe you’re not as stupid as I first thought you to be.”
His answer to that was to walk away from me with a smirk and an enticing swerve of his hips as he pushed open the door.
The breezy atmosphere in the room revived after the hounds left.
I leaned against the bar and glared at the blonde-hair fairy who’d been hiding behind the Hennessy bottle on the second shelf.
I chuckled. One deep inhale from any one of the Bloods in this place would give her a way in a second.
“You can come out now, Finley.”
She looked at me with a crooked smile, the wavering grin an attempt to keep her features impartial. But I knew she was freaking out. After all, it had been Edge who’d brought her to the queen’s court to be served up as a party favor to her guests less than a month prior.
Finley landed softly on the barstool next to me, and her body shimmered into her human size of around five and a half feet, which put her about five inches shorter than me.
“I have a bad feeling about this, Cassis,” she said, waving down the bar keep.
I nodded. “Yeah… I do, too.”
Nonetheless, that didn’t stop my building need to embrace the new life the Fates had deigned to lay out before me. It did, however, make me weary at what else they might have in store for me.
“I wish I could just say no and be done with it.”
“Then that’s what you should do.”
I thought about Edge, Blaze, Rider, and Syn and shook my head. “If it weren’t for my hounds, I would.”
Finley’s sapphire eyes widened. “You called them yours. What’s up with that?”
I opened my mouth, closed it, then nodded. “Huh, why did I call them that?” My head fell into my hand, and I let out a hard breath.
Finley touched my shoulder. “Let’s get you home. Some rest will help you gain perspective.”
I sat up, gripped her hand in both of mine, and let a single tear slip unchecked down my cheek. “I think that’s exactly what I need.” I let go of her hand reluctantly and picked up a half-empty bottle of beer. “But, maybe after one more drink.”
An hour later, I found myself fisting the neck of a tequila bottle and standing on the stairs of a familiar blue and white trailer that was parked behind the Rebel Circus.
Jake stood in front of me, his champagne-colored eyes narrowing in flirtation. The sexy alpha werewolf’s hair fell to his shoulders, damp from a recent shower. He wore a tight-fitting black t-shirt and a pair of ass-hugging jeans. My eyes instantly fell to the front, where he hadn’t bothered to button or zip them up yet.
I cleared my last shot, and the visual of his lower abs, from my throat. “Can I come in so we can talk?”
His chiseled features were relaxed as he all but purred, “About what?”
Accidentally—on purpose—my hand reached out, fingers smoothing over the flat, hard “V” of his stomach. A tingling sensation slid down the crevice between my breasts, much like the slide of a warm tongue.
All right Cassis, keep your cool. You came here for a reason.
I pulled my hand back, and as a nerve bolsterer, I took a swig of tequila, and using the back of my hand, swiped the residual liquid from my lips.
Holding onto the doorframe, Jake leaned over and took the tequila from me. His eyes flickered as he swirled the liquid left in the bottle, then took a sip, exhaling with a satisfied grin. “That’s good stuff.”
Over the sensual sound of Jake’s voice, I somehow focused on the task at hand. “Have you ever heard of the Fang and Claw?”
He cocked a brow. “I have.”
“Well, a funny thing happened a little while ago. One of them came to me claiming that since I killed Sterling, I am now their queen.” I grabbed the bottle back and took another healthy swig. “Funny, right?”
Jake waited a beat too long before he said, “You can’t be serious.”
I looked up at him from my lower position on the stairs. “As a heart attack.”
Real dread washed over his features. “No fucking way. This can’t be happening, not after…”
I offered a tentative smile. “Not after what, Jake?”
Openly hostile, he straightened his posture and took a step back inside his trailer. “You should leave.”
Pain lanced through my heart as I took another step up the stairs. “Let’s talk.”
The look of repulsion that tightened his features scared me a little.
“Have you accepted their bond?”
“Are you going to?”
I shook my head and said on a long sigh, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
He held up one finger, and I bit my lip. “I don’t like this, Cassis, not one damn bit.”
For a moment, he just looked at me.
“Can I at least come inside so we can discuss this further?”
He didn’t say a word, just stepped out of my way. I touched his arm as I passed into the tiny living room. His body didn’t recoil; I counted that as a win.
“I don’t know if I can stick around and watch this, Cassis,” Jake whispered, swallowing hard. “I am an alpha. Alphas don’t share well.”
“I’m not asking you to share.”
Jake rubbed his hands down his face. “You have no clue what’s about to happen to you, do you?”
No, I didn’t. But did he? Panic surged in my gut, but I tampered it down.
I lifted my chin. “And you do?”
“Yes,” he snarled, “I do.”
I briefly closed my eyes. “That makes one of us.”
“The problem,” he said in a forced calm tone, “is that you’ve been put in an impossible position.”
He reached out to me, and I linked my hand with his. We took a few steps to his dining room table, and I sat down.
“You said that they already started the bonding process?”
“If you mean they knelt in front of me and recited a poem, then, I suppose so.”
“That wasn’t a poem. That was an ancient bonding ritual that is unique to the Fang and Claw.” Jake squeezed my hand. “You said that you didn’t accept their bond…”
I shook my head. “No, I didn’t. But I wanted to, like, really, really wanted to.”
Jake worked the buttons on his jeans. Once his pants were fastened, he ran a hand through his hair. He looked at the worry creasing my features and let out a sigh.
“Then you’re only half fucked.”
There sure wasn’t a ‘we’ anywhere in that statement.
I stared at the kitchen cabinet behind his head as if it held all the answers to my problems. But I knew first hand all I would find in there was a can of Folgers, two chipped mugs, and some coffee filters.
I took a deep breath, my words catching in my throat. “Why only half? What do you know?”
Jake’s eyes burned an amber hue. The first time I’d seen them like that was in the heat of battle.
“It means you belong to two worlds now, Cassis: yours and theirs. Life as you’ve known it will never be the same.”
He was still using singular connotations.
I twisted the spider ring on my finger and stared at him. “So, there’s no going back then.”
His answer hit me hard. And so did the sudde
“Looks like I’m done here. Thank you for the information.”
What little he’d given me.
Instead of asking me to stay and talk things out some more, Jake said nothing.
I watched him with one eyebrow arched until the simple act turned uncomfortable.
“Don’t bother calling me, asshole.” The words came out smoothly, without a hitch. On the inside, a vice clamped around my heart and squeezed until most of the beats skipped like a broken record.
Still, he remained quiet.
I hit the door at a clipped pace and didn’t bother to look back as it slammed shut. If this was what Jake meant by my life never being the same again, well then, so be it. I had no room for cowards in my life.
Some alpha he turned out to be.
The stench of sweat, carnival food, and abandoned booths loomed before me. It was just past midnight at the Rebel Circus, and all the rides were shut down for the night. I looked around—not a soul in sight and everything felt stale.
Maudlin thoughts overtook me as I walked by the ticket booth, a shoot-em-up game, and the ring toss with my shoulders slumped forward and my thumb plucking at the silver spikes on my leather belt. I felt hopeless, and my heart was sore as hell. I’d really thought there was something special building between Jake and me, and it sucked to be so wrong. The phone in my pocket lit up, and I ignored it. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with anybody.
A menacing laugh, a clucking sound, and then a low growl rose from the shadows before me in the near distance. The smell of damp grass and a sweet stench reached out to permeate the air. My body tensed. A Blood was near, and by the earthy aroma it was emanating, it was of a faeblood variety.
I shivered, a warm blanket of goosebumps coating my arms. With a deep breath, I pushed back the fear. I could easily retreat into the employee camping area, but for some reason, I decided not to. I had to stand my ground. Too many things were pushing me around lately, and I’d had enough of it.
I inched forward toward the noise.
After I’d taken only three steps, a brown creature with a big nose and short teal hair sprung, like Jack from his box, out of the house of mirrors several yards away. His tall, beefy, humanoid form landed lightly before me, large green eyes ablaze with magic.
A push of energy kicked up his tattered brown duster making the bottom ripple around his calves.
Just as swiftly as the man appeared, I leapt several feet backwards with my dagger now in hand, my body melting downward into position, poised for attack.
“You’ll need to be quicker than that to get a jump on me, troll.”
Trolls were fast, potent with magic, and nasty sonsabitches when riled. But not even the fastest one could out run me… and regarding a nasty disposition? After the day I’d had, this guy didn’t have a clue the shit storm he’d just stepped into.
And all that shit-talking would have remained true, if it weren’t for what he did next.
There was a flash of sound as the troll lifted his hand to call forth his magic. At first it came as a small trickle of light popping from his palm that quickly transformed into a rotating wave of water. The water orb looked harmless enough, but everyone in the magic world knew that a troll grenade could scar even an immortal’s flesh with its acid-like liquid.
Fuck, shit, and double fuck… I hadn’t known this troll was packing that kind of juice. Like I said, trolls were potent, but this kind of magic required its practitioner to be ancient.
My face prickled with heat, and I gulped down the frog bouncing in my throat. I found myself hesitant because I didn’t know what to do next. To be quiet frank, the grenade he was wielding had me terrified.
“I’m not here to harm you,” the troll announced.
My eyes jumped to his hand. “Really? Could’ve fooled me.”
He chuckled and manipulated the magic hovering over his palm to bounce with the slight flexing of his fingers. “You mean this? This little gem is for my own protection. I was warned about you, queen killer.”
Geez… apparently good news spread quickly in Rowen City.
I had to smile. “That was done in self-defense.”
We exchanged an uncomfortable stare that lasted way too long before I finally suggested, “If you put your weapon away, I’ll do the same.”
He chuckled again. “You first. And while you’re at it, toss the iron.”
I lifted a hand and fluttered my fingers over the iron chain that I had wrapped in a layer of two around my neck. It was the only real Fae protection I had on; taking it off could be bad for my health if the troll really was out to harm me.
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”
His rounded eyes gleamed mischief. “You know very well that a faeblood can’t lie. Not even a lesser one like me.”
That was the true. The Fae weren’t capable of an outright lie. They were, however, very adept at skirting the truth. For example, an ancient faeblood throwing around the lesser classification was a joke. An ancient was just as strong as any full-blood Fae. It just goes to show it’s all in the wording.
Be that as it may, I reached behind my neck and unclasped the iron chain. With heavy anxiety, I tossed it into one of the garbage bins that lined the snack shack to my right. I hesitated with my other weapon. The odds of the troll still throwing that damn acid ball at me once I’d sheathed my dagger were high. The odds if I didn’t, even higher still. So, faced with a no brainer, I did as he requested.
I faced the troll with my hands empty. “Are we good?”
He nodded then squished the churning ball of liquid between his fingers by curling his hand into a tight fist. “Our first test of trust is complete.”
My head tilted to the side at that. “Is there going to be a second?”
He shrugged his robust shoulders. “That’s entirely up to you, queen killer.”
Before I could take offense, something dawned on me. The troll had yet to divulge the nature of his visit.
“Why have you come?”
“How do you know I’ve come to see you? I could be craving some cotton candy or a ride on a rollercoaster?”
He made sure to add could be, so what he said was not a lie.
“Look, guy, we both know that’s not the case. Trolls don’t leave their bridges unless something big is going down. So, what is it?”
A look of longing relaxed the troll’s oversized features. His voice was low, thoughtful. “I left my bridge in good hands.”
He flinched on the last part, which indicated that he’d told just enough of a lie to cause himself some minor discomfort. No troll alive was comfortable leaving his territory under the control of another creature. It was entirely unheard of.
I snapped my fingers in front of his face and almost immediately grabbed his attention.
The troll looked at me, his head tilted slightly to the side. His expression didn’t change, and he still had a faraway look in his eyes, as if he longed to be home, or anywhere else other than here. His hair stirred, like a rippling tide, lifting on an unseen wave of water that came from nowhere because it didn’t exist. The only thing rousing the movement was his magic.
“The Oracle sent me to find you.”
This night was getting better and better.
I looked at him, arching a brow. “She did, huh? And did she also ask you to threaten me with a troll grenade?”
“No,” he said, “that was all me.”
“I see. And why has she sent you?”
“She wants me to remind you of a promise you made her.”
I blinked at him, baffled. “She wants me to visit her… now?”
In the near distance, the carousel’s lights clicked on, clicked off, and then right back on to stay. Its mu
Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a flash of movement.
“Are you expecting company?” I asked.
Scowling, the troll pulled a knife. “Nope.”
I switched my vision to infrared and immediately picked up heat signatures.
“Look over there.”
His grimace deepened. “Where exactly should I be looking?”
I pointed to a spot next to the carousel. “Right there, in the shadows. Do you see them?”
In an instant, the troll flicked the knife into the darkness. A long howl of pain ripped through the carnival music along with growls and the distinct sound of gnashing teeth.
Upon hearing that, my protective instincts kicked in. I now knew exactly who was creeping in the shadows, just out of sight.
The troll grabbed another knife, the blade glinting wickedly under the moonlight. My hand lashed out, knocking it from his grip.
He looked at me confused. “Why the hell did you do that? Do you want to get eaten by a pack of hellhounds? Because that’s what’s about to attack us, you know.”
He jabbed the air with his knife in the direction where Edge and the rest of the Fang and Claw were standing.
“They won’t hurt us.”
“How the fuck do you know that?”
I wasn’t in the mood to explain the ends and outs of my half-bond to a troll I didn’t even know, so I said, “I just do.”
The troll muttered something underneath his breath, and a wall of fog jumped up between us. The magic curled high into the sky and stretched wide as far as the eye could see, effectively cutting off the hounds. I reached out and touched the wall—it felt cold and curiously resistant.
The troll snatched my hand out of the air and pulled me with him, bolting in the opposite direction.
My body shuddered at the sound of Edge’s voice, and I wanted to yank free from the troll’s grip, turn around, and run back to my hounds. They were guarding me. That’s what had brought them here tonight, hiding in the shadows. They must’ve been following me the entire time. If it weren’t for the troll, they probably would have never made their presence known.
Tangled Web (Venin Assassin Book 2) by Gena D. Lutz / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes