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Tangled web venin assass.., p.6
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       Tangled Web (Venin Assassin Book 2), p.6

           Gena D. Lutz
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  Edge strode back out the front door, hefted me into his arms, and walked us both back inside. He kicked the door shut behind us and continued until we were moving up the stairs. As we progressed farther into the bowels of the queen’s court, my heart rate increased. This was where I had been held captive, drugged, and had many other horribly wretched things done to me. My thin silk dress quickly soaked with sweat, the bodice clinging to my heaving chest.

  Fuck this.

  “Put me down!”

  “I’m not going to let anything happen to you, Cassis.”

  I bit my lip, considering his words, and even though his voice made me seem less overwhelmed by past anxieties, still, I tensed.

  He reached up and touched my cheek. “This is your home now… its enchanted heart beats for you; its essence awaits your slightest command. You have nothing to fear within these walls.”

  I knew, for the most part, what Edge said was true. Hell, I just witnessed the instant blossoming of a rose bush at my mere presence, and I could feel the house welcoming me with each second that passed. But old wounds close slow and bad memories even slower still.

  “That doesn’t take the memories away.”

  He mumbled, “I know.”

  “I just want to be put down.”

  I felt the muscles in his arm relax when he finally decided to give in to my demands, and my heart sped up as he placed me on my feet. The bare skin of my soles brushed the hardwood. The planks instantly responded to my touch with a flush of warmth against my flesh. I melted against the heat and its comfort—to my surprise, it was the closest to peace I’d felt in a very long time.

  Edge stepped closer, his keen eyes watching intently. “Are you better?”

  As if in a daze, I shook my head and slurred, “No, but I will be.”

  “Can I bring you to Rider, then?”

  “Sure.” I blinked, feeling calmness that only the best Vicodin could deliver, then I began a casual walk next to Edge.

  In front of me, I could hear hushed voices. The kind you’d expect to hear in a hospital or dental office—gloomy and foreboding.

  Edge stopped at a door and lowered his voice. “He’s in here.”

  He opened the door and motioned me inside. The door clicked shut behind us.

  I couldn’t take my eyes off Rider as I walked into the room. I felt my pulse race at the tragic image he made, passed out across the bed with his normally honey-colored flesh as pale as a sheet of paper. His dark cinnamon hair hung damp and choppy in his face. He looked half dead and depleted of the magic that kept him strong and vibrant.

  Edge stepped farther inside the room, close enough to grab ahold of the bedpost. The muscles that corded his arm flexed. He was that stressed and squeezing the wood so tight that I was surprised that it didn’t crack under the pressure.

  Blaze and Syn sat at the foot of the bed. You could tell how worried they were by the desperate and hopeful looks they were throwing my way.

  “Are you going to help him?” Syn’s voice was low, cracked like he’d been crying.

  I cleared my throat. “I’m going to try.”

  Syn’s sea-blue eyes darted to Blaze. “See, I told you she wouldn’t let us fade. Especially not Rider, he seems to be her favorite.”

  I raised a brow at that.

  Blaze looked over at me. “That still remains to be seen.”

  Edge put a hand on his shoulder. “Show more respect to your queen.”

  “Forgive me,” Blaze whispered.

  For a moment, it looked as though he meant the apology, but then he turned away, shielding me from his real emotions. I understood his hesitation to trust me, so I didn’t take the brush off too personally.

  “If you want me to help,” I announced to the room. “I need you to tell me how.”

  Edge looked from his hounds to me. “All you need to do is accept our bond.”

  I slowly stepped forward, stopping when I reached the side of the bed closest to Rider.

  “Is it really that simple?”

  “Yes,” Syn answered.

  I glanced briefly at Syn, nodded, then reached over and laced my fingers through Rider’s slack ones.

  The rest of the hounds slowly stepped behind me. A reassuring gesture that not only filled me with confidence, but judging by the way my body shivered with warmth and energy, magic as well.

  “I don’t get how this all works, but…” I squeezed Rider’s fingers, closed my eyes, and said what felt right. “As the new Night Queen, I accept the allegiance of my hounds—the Fang and Claw.”

  Then suddenly, my skin glowed as if coming alive with magic. I swayed on my feet, strong hands coming from all directions to steady me.

  I looked back at Edge. “Did I do it right?”

  I was still glowing, my knees felt wobbly, and I found it hard to swallow air.

  Edge smiled at me. It was one of the most genuine smiles I’d ever received. “You did magnificently, my queen.”

  I smiled back at him and felt myself falling into light, into an inferno that raged but couldn’t scorch flesh. I tumbled down a tunnel devoid of sound, yet somehow, music and laughter roared, and then, from far away a predatory figure slunk from the shadows. It was a hellhound with black cherry fur. The animal was stalking me. She crouched low and, somehow, sent me a clear message. We are now tied by blood and magic.

  The next thing that happened brought the promise of sweet release… darkness fell, and I extinguished without fear.

  Chapter Ten

  I came to at the sound of my hounds arguing.

  “Less than a day as our queen and this is how we protect her?”

  “It was part of the bonding process, Syn, so let it rest already.”

  “Last time I checked, you never fully accepted her as ours. So, you can fuck off, Blaze!”

  “I do not ask for your calm because I like her. I ask because you are pissing off the scorpion venin that we aren’t allowed to protect ourselves from without fear of reprisal from our so-called queen, you idiot!”

  “Now that you boys know the score, you better pray like hell that she wakes up soon.”

  In an attempt at humor, Blaze bowed his head and said, “As you command, best friend of my queen.” He couldn’t keep the disgust out of his voice.

  A long black braid with a stinger attached at its end rose behind Keri.

  “Can you guys tone it down a bit? I have a splitting headache,” I mumbled.

  Keri’s braid dropped back down, and she smiled. “It’s about time you woke up, Sis. I almost had to skin me some hounds.”

  I glanced at her and said, “Hi, Ker-bear.”

  She moved toward me then and gestured over my body. “You better be the same ol’ Cassis I’ve come to know and love underneath all that newness.”

  I stood up from the bed that once held Rider and took a good look at myself in the standing mirror situated to the right of me… and shivered.

  “What the fu…?”

  Edge and Rider watched me from across the room.

  “What’s wrong? You look beautiful,” Syn whispered, looking at my reflection. Then his eyes met mine.

  “My hair is longer,” I whispered.

  He nodded.

  My fingers traced the soft skin of my cheek. “And my skin is flawless.” My gaze raked the reflection of my naked body. “And are my tits… bigger?”

  Keri nodded and sighed. “You’ve gone from goth queen to porno queen.”

  Blaze interjected. “She is neither one of those insipid things, scorpion. She is the Night Queen.”

  She raised a brow at him. “Oh, I see. How fucking marvelous.”

  I drew a deep breath, easily tuning out Keri and the hounds. My reflection was a powerful draw. Not because I thought I was “all that” but because for the first time, I could feel raw power coursing through me, could see it running throughout my veins as though my skin were rice paper thin. I was drawing the life blood from this house, could connect to its ethereal spirit. It
was unlike anything I’d ever encountered, and it felt as natural as breathing.

  Suddenly, a splash of awareness washed over me. Something was awry in my court. I raised a brow at my train of thought—my court?

  Just then, the bedroom door burst open, and a pair of elves strode inside with purpose.

  I spun around.

  Two tall, broad-shouldered, dark men, wearing combat gear and holding weapons, gazed around the room in search of me. They obviously belonged here—belonged to me—I felt their familiarity to the queen’s court right off. They appeared shaken. The elf with short, blood-red hair was out of breath, and the other one with stunning amethyst eyes and matching long locks that curled at the ends held his staff so tight his knuckles strained bleach white.

  Responding to their panic, my hand instantly reached out to them, and awkwardly—but not, it was as though I was holding their drumming heartbeats in my hand. I closed my fist and pressed it to my chest, breathing in and out with ease while at the same time concentrating on my own heart’s rhythm, systematically slowing theirs down. And then magically, their names came to me: Dravick and Braydon; the Night Queen’s personal guards.

  For one moment, the elves just stared at me, their shoulders loosened, and they both appeared calmer. A shudder went through my body at their reaction. I let my fist drop and shook my head.

  Well, I’ll be damned. I really am their queen.

  But trouble was on the horizon. I could taste the brimstone and fire of it as a thick coat of warning on my tongue.

  As the elves began to speak of the new crisis in our midst, Edge walked over to stand at my side.

  It was Dravick, the elf with red hair, swirling white eyes, and a very sharp-looking long sword strapped to his back that spoke. “The Essence of Fairy is in the parlor. She has requested a sit down with our new queen.”

  Rider’s honeyed eyes shone with uneasiness. “She’s never crossed our threshold before.”

  My heart jumped. Edge’s eyes flickered fire, and I could have sworn I spotted tiny flames dancing along his neck and throat. The Essence of Fairy, or better known to me as the Oracle, had left the land of mist and magic to pay a visit to little ‘ol me. I wanted to react with abject horror. Instead, I lifted my chin and said, “Tell her I’ll be along shortly.”

  We all turned at the sound of cracking glass.

  Rider, Syn, and Blaze were at my side in an instant. Keri moved so quickly, she beat the hounds, stopping in front of me like she was my human shield. The elves drew their weapons.

  I heard a harmonious and lilting voice and watched on in astonishment as the glass in the standing mirror before me warped, almost melting, as the Oracle’s beautiful face shimmered into view.

  “You will come downstairs and talk to me now, Cassis.”

  I wasn’t sure what to say to that, but Keri had no problem coming up with something.

  “I don’t think she likes being ordered around… especially by a freaky floating head.”

  I took Keri’s hand and squeezed it. She shook her head in frustration.

  With a smirk, the Oracle moved her gaze over Keri. “Because you are obviously ignorant, I’ll let that remark slide.” Her eyes jumped back to me. “Don’t let that new crown of yours go to your head, child. Please make haste.”

  I clutched Keri’s hand harder and nodded at the Oracle.

  The Oracle’s image swirled into blue and pink smoke, and then it disappeared, leaving a cracked surface in its wake. My instincts guided me to wave a hand in front of the damage, and instantly, the cracks melted away, leaving the mirror intact once more.

  With the Oracle momentarily forgotten, Keri looked at me with wide eyes. “How did you do that?”

  I grinned at her. “Perks of the new gig.”

  She smiled back. “Nice.”

  The new abilities were nice. The new job, however? Let’s just say the jury was still out on that.

  I turned my focus to the alpha hellhound at my side. “I better get down there.”

  Edge straightened his shoulders. “Then you should probably put on something appropriate to wear.”

  I chuckled and eyed the crumpled bed sheet behind me. Even though this was now my home in every way possible, it did lack one thing—my wardrobe. I had nothing to wear let alone something appropriate.

  I was pretty used to winging it when necessary, so I pointed to the sheet. “All I need to do is wrap that sheet around me and voila!”

  He followed my gesture and laughed. “That won’t be necessary, my queen.”

  I raised a brow. “Oh… and why’s that? Do you have a magic wand I don’t know about?”

  And then it hit me. In this house, I was magic without the need of a mystical wand.

  “Can I whip something up on my own?” I asked, with more than a little excitement in my voice.

  With a smile, he nodded.

  My lips pressed into a quirky grin. Oh, this is going to be good.

  I faced the mirror, closed my eyes, and envisioned the racks of clothing in my favorite store, Pink Acid. When I opened my eyes, I was wearing a pair of dark distressed jeans, a red blouse, and matching heels.

  My lips spread into an even wider smile. A girl could get used to this.

  Chapter Eleven

  Once I was dressed, I walked down stairs and into the parlor. It was a huge space, filled with bookshelves, a piano, wood paneling, a crystal chandelier, and two familiar people.

  “Cassis!” my stepmother squealed.

  I flexed my fingers, eyes burning with hatred at the sight of the woman who four years prior had sold me to Sterling, the former Night Queen.

  “How dare you even speak my name!” The sound that came out of my mouth was more animal than human.

  I lurched forward, Edge’s fingers wrapped around my arm, holding me back.

  Dahlia rolled her eyes. “You can’t still be mad at me.” She waved a hand around the room. “Just look at how things ended up. You have me to thank for all this you know.”

  Confusion, anger, a need to rip a bitch’s throat out consumed me. “Are you fucking serious?”

  “Is that any way to talk to your mother?”

  “You are not my mother,” I seethed.

  More rage surged until my throat seared with it. My fingertips tingled with magic just underneath the surface aching to be unleashed on the woman who’d once betrayed me. In an attempt to calm my magic down, I opened and closed my hands several times. Now was not the time to kill her.

  Edge addressed the Oracle. “Why have you come?”

  I reached out and touched his arm, my anger calmed by degrees.

  By the expression on the Oracle’s face, she wanted nothing to do with Edge—at least that’s how it seemed when she completely ignored him and directed her reply at me. “Maybe you should ask your new queen why I’m here.”

  “And maybe you should explain why you brought that worthless bag of blood and bones into my home.”

  The Oracle smiled. “It is customary to bring a gift to a new queen.”

  Dahlia’s mouth opened in shock. I guess she hadn’t realized the Oracle’s real purpose of brining her here.

  My eyes narrowed. “This woman is a suitable gift for no one. She is beyond the scum of the earth.”

  Apparently, my hatred for her ran deep.

  Dahlia spat. “How dare you!”

  “Shut your trap before I shut it for you,” I warned.

  As soon as I spoke, I knew that my word held more sway here. This was my hillock, my court, a rare and special piece of Fairy within the realm of humans. Who would have thought that a spider venin could hold such mystical power—a power reserved for only the Seelie and Unseelie Fae?

  “If only your father could see what a disrespectful little witch you’ve turned out to be.”

  That was the final straw.

  My arm swung and my hand swiped the air. All of a sudden, Dahlia’s lips began to slowly melt as though she were a wax figure left out to burn in the blaz
ing sun. The two pieces of flesh fused together as one droopy mess.

  Her eyes rounded with fear, her fingers grasping at her mouth.

  I smiled. “Your voice is a nuisance that I will no longer entertain.”

  I waved my hand once more and Dahlia’s arms dropped to her side and her eyes stared vacantly forward. I couldn’t kill her, but I sure as hell could make her as miserable as possible.

  The Oracle looked at me and let her lips spread into an amused grin. “If I had a single doubt about you before, that squashed it.”

  I blinked. “Why are you always so cryptic? Say what you mean or leave.”

  The parlor door flung open as if my will commanded it.

  Keeping her face expressionless, the Oracle asked, “Can we speak in private?”

  “It depends. Are you asking, or demanding it of me?”

  She opened her hands in supplication. “I am respectfully requesting a private audience with the newly-crowned Night Queen.”

  “In that case, yes...” I answered neutrally, even though her quick change in attitude disturbed me.

  I motioned to my people to leave, then leaned over and whispered into Edge’s ear. “Can you take that thing over there with you?”

  He nodded, walked over to Dahlia, and led her out of the room by her elbow. The other three hounds followed suit.

  My gaze moved to Keri, who was standing out of the way by a far window. She blinked sluggishly at me but took the hint to leave, only after flipping me the bird.

  I winked at Keri, let out a huff of air, and faced the Oracle.

  “Now that you have me alone, what is it that you so desperately need to say?”

  Her body visibly relaxed, and she let out a sigh. “We should probably sit for this.”

  I nodded and asked, “It’s that bad?”

  “It really depends on how you take it.”

  I moved to a wingback chair and sat. The Oracle took a seat on its matching counterpart next to me.

  “So,” I said, “spill it.”

  Her light brown hands moved over her knees, smoothing the wrinkles from her sheer dress. “Right, okay… Cassis, I have been trying to figure out how to tell you this ever sense I saw you at Punch Drunk with Meara. So here goes nothing…” There was a stretch of silence, then, “I am your mother.”

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