Sweet Legacy Page 1

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CHAPTER 1

GRACE

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 Calydonian boar with tusks three feet long, a pair of massive birds whose feathers look like arrowheads, and a double-headed serpent monster that 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 semicircle 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 wish 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’s 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 leads to a good ending 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, her silver eyes are 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.”

She says it like it’s more than a guess. Given her power of second sight, it probably is.

Gretchen flicks a glance over her shoulder, exchanging a look with Nick—a silent question, Did you do this? Does she still doubt his allegiance? Does she still think he’s spying on us for the enemy—well, for one of our enemies? We have so many it’s hard to keep track. There are the ones who want us dead before we can open the door, the ones who want to wait until after, and the ones who want us for the bounty on our heads—freedom from this awful place. We’re lucky anyone is on our side. Nick is supposed to be.

Does Gretchen think he might be the reason the monsters are expecting us?

His mouth tightens and he gives her a quick shake of his head.

She stares at him—studying him, evaluating him. Gretchen doesn’t trust easily, and I know she still has doubts about Nick. I don’t blame her. When he first showed up in her life, she had no idea he was anything more than a normal boy. Then she learned he was sent by the goddess of justice to protect us. And just when she started to believe him, she found out he was also working as an agent for the monster side. He insists he was a mole, and she believes him. We believe him. But still, there’s always room for doubt.

Finally, she nods in response before returning her attention to the monsters, who have started grunting and shuffling in anticipation of the fight. I guess that was answer enough for her.

“Circle up,” Gretchen instructs.

Adrenaline pours into my bloodstream and my hands start to shake.

I try to calm my fear and draw on my courage. I’ve trained for this. Between Gretchen’s and Greer’s lessons, I feel like I’ve earned a monster-fighting black belt in a few short weeks. But this isn’t a training exercise. I’ve never been this frightened in my life, not even when the two warring factions clashed in the gym at Greer’s school and we were caught in the middle. Then I didn’t have time to be scared.

“Get behind us,” Nick says calmly as he steps around me, taking position at Gretchen’s side.

Thane follows around to the other side, flanking Gretchen and setting me and Greer firmly behind their wall of defense. He’s here only to watch over me, to look out for his little sister. He’s not actually part of this war. He’s not equipped for what we’re about to face. He’s just a boy.

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