Saved by Venom (Grabbed 3)(9)

By: Lolita Lopez

Venom noticed another man closing in on him. He shot the guy a hard look to warn him off the prize he had selected. The airman put up both hands to show he wanted no problems and pointed to a brunette nearing the tree line. “I’m after that one, sir.”

“The blonde’s mine.” He kicked his pace into high gear and started to gain on the woman he wanted. She had disappeared into the dense woods. Panic gripped his gut. Would she evade him now?

Considering the way she had been unable to even run in a straight line from the starting point to the forest, he doubted it. When he hit the tree line, he slowed his speed just enough to get his bearings. He scanned the snowy forest floor and found her tiny footprints. With a path to follow, he hurried after her.

Another minute into the pursuit, Venom spotted the bright-pink shoes discarded near a tree. His heart leapt into his throat. Didn’t she realize how dangerous it was to run barefoot in the damned snow?

“Shit.” Growling, he surged forward in search of her. He had to find her quickly and before she got frostbite.

So focused on finding her, Venom missed the telltale sign of a hunter’s mark on the trees surrounding him. His boot hit the spongy trigger of a trap a millisecond before his brain alerted him to the mistake he’d made. With a chilling snap, two metal halves of the trap slammed shut on his leg.

“Fuck!” His pained shout ricocheted off the trees. Caught, he fell forward onto his knees and hands. His jaws ground at the excruciating bite compressing his leg. The reinforced webbing and nanofibers of his boots kept the gnarly metal snare from piercing his skin and crippling him but the terrible squeezing grip knocked the air right out of his lungs.

A wave of panic seized him. Despondence quickly overwhelmed him. He had two choices now. He could try to jerk the chain free and bust the trap or he could use the signal flare tucked into the pocket of his pants to call for help. Once the flare was lit he was officially disqualified from the Grab. Even if he had his collar around her neck, they would set her free and send him home empty-handed.

Either way, he had lost his reward. He had lost her.

* * * * *

Dizzy gasped at the terrible, pained shout that echoed in the forest. Birds scattered as the guttural groan tore the stillness. She slid to a stop in the freezing-cold snow and tried to slow her ragged breaths. Was that a man?

Was it the man?

She gulped hard and licked her lips. Glancing back in the direction of the awful sound, she tried to decide what to do. A sky warrior like the rugged, intimidating one who had been eying her would only make a sound like that if he was in big trouble.

The race officials had warned them that people hunted in these wounds. The gun laws out here weren’t like the strict zero-tolerance laws in The City. It was rumored everyone in the sticks had a weapon. Maybe the sky warrior chasing her had been shot? Did he need help?

She warred with her conscience only a moment before exhaling roughly and turning back in the direction she’d come. Pressing a hand to her temple, she tried to gain control over the vertigo threatening to swamp her. She hated this damn sickness! Running and playing had been nearly impossible as a child. She couldn’t predict when the waves of nausea and dizziness would hit her but they usually happened at the worst times.

Like right now.

Bracing herself on a tree, Dizzy closed her eyes. She inhaled steadying breaths and performed a series of slow maneuvers that usually helped abate the uncomfortable swirling some. Today, thankfully, it worked. She managed to get moving again without feeling as though she was going to puke or fall flat on her face.

The sounds of a struggle met her ears. She heard rattling chains and grunting. Hiding behind a tree, Dizzy licked her lips and gathered her courage before sliding to the side and peeking out at him.

Seated on the snow, he gripped a long, thick chain in both gloved hands and jerked hard. Her eyes widened at his shocking display of strength. When her gaze moved lower, she gasped at the sight of the awful-looking trap closed around his lower leg. The snow around his leg remained white and pristine, so he wasn’t bleeding badly. Even so, the injury he would sustain if the trap wasn’t removed quickly would be a terrible one.

Trembling with cold and fear, she stepped out from behind the tree and revealed herself to him. His gaze snapped to her and she took a nervous step back. He let the chain fall from his hands. The tension eased from his face, softening his harsh features and making him look less vicious. They stared at each other for the longest time.

Finally Dizzy found enough courage to move closer to him. Her footsteps crunched on the firm, packed snow. He glanced at her bare feet and scowled. “Why the hell did you take off your shoes?”

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