#3 in the Sweet Venom series
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The monsters are waiting.
As Gretchen, Greer and I tumble out of the swirling crazy of the portal we created to bring us here, we are immediately surrounded by mythological beasts. There must be two dozen, at least. All sizes, all shapes, all... textures. Many I recognize from Gretchen's lost monster binders: a furry Caledonian boar with tusks three feet long, a pair of massive birds whose feathers look like arrowheads, and a double-headed serpent monster I think is called an amphisbaena. Others I've never even imagined, like the giant white worm or the hyena-like one with no mouth that I can see. They are all standing in a semi-circle around the open space where the portal dumped us into the bleak, black abyss that the monsters call home. Abyssos.
When Gretchen described this place, I thought she was exaggerating. I couldn't believe it was as horrible as the picture she painted.
I was wrong.
Between the slick-looking black stone and the nauseating combination of smells, sounds, and faint green light, I almost with I could autoport back home and forget I ever saw any of this.
But I can't. We're here for a purpose, and I won't abandon my sisters or our duty.
Tugging on my backpack straps to anchor it tighter against my body, I force myself to control the fear as we face down the waiting monsters.
Waiting ... like they knew we were coming.
For half a second I think—I hope—that these are friendly monsters, the ones Gretchen told us she met when she came in here after Nick. The ones who want to help us.
But one glance at her—stance braced wide, a dagger in each fist, fangs on display and a look of pure menace on her face—tells me to forget that idea. These monsters aren't here to assist. They're here to either capture us or kill us.
Neither option ends well for us or the world we're trying to protect. I knew this was going to be dangerous, I just didn't expect the danger to find us so quickly.
My already racing heart speeds up in my chest.
"Fangs down." Gretchen inches forward, putting herself between me and Greer and the monsters. "They're mortal here. They won't want to tangle with our venom."
I glance at Greer. Her fair skin and highlights shine like a beacon against the gloom. It's her face though that stands out the most. Her expression is haunting, her cheeks are ghostly pale, silver eyes wide and staring straight ahead. She usually holds it together on the outside, even when she's falling apart on the inside. Seeing the signs of her panic on prominent display sends my heart rate up another notch.
I curl my lips and let my fangs drop, hoping the gesture will make me appear stronger and more dangerous.
The boys fly out of the portal right behind us. Nick bumps into Greer, knocking her off balance, but Thane manages to land sure-footed at my side. He reaches out to steady Greer before she hits the shiny black ground.
My brother's reflexes are lightning fast.
"What in Hades?" Nick asks, already swinging his backpack around to the front and unzipping the main compartment.
"They were waiting," I say, my voice weak.
Greer adds in a tense whisper, "They knew we were coming."