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Saved by Venom 3 (Grabbed)(2)

By:Lolita Lopez



Dizzy snorted. “Hardly.”

“Stop being so modest.” Ella pulled out a coral-pink dress and held it up against her body. She used the mirror mounted on the door to check out her reflection. “I always get the most compliments when I’m wearing your creations. I still think we should have started our own business.”

“If money grew on trees,” Dizzy replied a bit wistfully. Joining Ella at the closet, she flicked through the hangers and selected all the dresses that were too small for Ella. “I want these to go to the shelter. The girls there will get some use out of them.” She glanced at her workstation. “The fabric and supplies too.”

“I’ll make sure it gets there. What about your work? Are you taking anything with you?”

“My seamstress kit.” She pointed to the leather messenger bag she carried everywhere. “I assume it won’t be difficult to find fabric or thread up there. They must have a much better market system than we do. Hopefully I can find a store that will sell my designs.”

“I’m sure that won’t be difficult. One look at your sketches for your fall line and everyone will be clamoring for the chance to have your designs hanging on their racks.” Still hugging the pink dress, Ella leaned back against the wall. “Let’s go out tonight.”

“What?” Dizzy shook her head. “I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I have to pack.”

“I’ll help you when we get back. What time do you run tomorrow morning?”

“Nine o’clock but I have to be at the square by eight. They’re bussing us out to the woods for the Grab.”

Ella made a face. “It’s going to be ridiculously cold. Do you have anything suitable for that weather?”

“The paper they gave me at the registrar’s office said that I’ll be provided a uniform for running.”

She made a humph noise. “It will probably be paper-thin and cheap.”

“Probably.”

“Come on, Dizzy.” Ella begged with that high-pitched whine that she somehow made impossibly cute and endearing. “Please? We’ll just grab a quick meal and a drink.”

She frowned at her friend. “The last time I heard that we ended up at Hopper’s underground dance club and barely escaped a raid by the secret police. No thanks!”

Ella rolled her eyes. “Whatever! You loved it. When was the last time you had that much fun? You know, other than the whole running-from-the-police-in-the-abandoned- subway-tunnels thing.”

“No.”

She checked her watch. “Look, it’s nearly eight. Let’s just listen to the Mouth and see what’s going on tonight. If there’s any chance that something might kick off we’ll stay inside. Okay?”

Unable to deny Ella anything, Dizzy nodded reluctantly and knelt down next to her bed to fish out the small homemade radio she kept hidden there. Because the walls were shoddy and thin and owning a radio was an arrestable offense they took the device into the bathroom and turned on the shower for background noise. Ella climbed up to poke the antenna against the window for better reception. It took Dizzy almost a minute to find the pirate radio station that alternated channels to avoid detection.

“…hear that the League of Idiots will be holding a rally at tomorrow’s Grab. Anyone who doesn’t want their ass kicked by a bunch of muscleheaded sky warriors should probably steer clear of those festivities. If there’s a book open on this, I’ve got ten bucks on the sky warriors, by the way.”

Ella shot her an amused smile as the female DJ known only as the Mouth from the South described the dustup that would likely occur between the League of Concerned Citizens and the Harcos. The grassroots organization billed itself as a group of men concerned about the increasing number of Harcos ships orbiting the planet but most people understood that they were little more than a government-approved front for Splinter activities on Calyx.

Dizzy had met a few members of the league and all of them were batshit crazy. They were the type of people who seemed to want anarchy—and she simply couldn’t understand it. The terrorist bombing that had taken her mother and nearly killed her had spurred intense rioting and chaos for weeks. She never wanted to experience true anarchy.

“We’ve also had reports from our friends by the sea that the big beasties in the sky have been scouting land outside Blue Shores. Maybe those rumors of a military base in our backyard aren’t so farfetched.”

“Ugh.” Ella made a face. “That’s all we need, right? Then the Splinter terrorists would have a real reason to cause more problems for all of us.”

Dizzy wondered if she was getting out just in time. The sky ships orbiting her planet were extremely safe—much safer than living down here where crazy people were blowing up buildings.

“Oh, and for all you night cats out there, I hear that a certain hopping spelunker is opening up the rabbit warren. First band starts at ten o’clock sharp. This one is a bring-your-own-booze affair.”

Ella lowered the volume and shot Dizzy her most pleading look. “Please?”

“Well…” She wavered. The “hopping spelunker” the Mouth described was a girl everyone called Hopper. Like a lot of street kids, Hopper had spent most of her youth living and exploring the tunnels of the abandoned subway system below The City. As an adult, she made a living organizing parties that took place literally and figuratively underground to avoid the morality laws of The City.

And they were such good parties! Dizzy loved to dance. She didn’t know when she might get the chance to do it again, especially not with some of the hottest bands on Calyx playing for a live crowd.

“Come on, Dizzy. Let me send you away in style. We’ll consider it your bachelorette party.”

“Well how can I pass up an offer like that?” Dizzy pushed down the sadness threatening to overwhelm her. She didn’t want to spend her last night on Calyx in tears and questioning her father’s betrayal. She wanted to spend it laughing and having a good time with her best friend in the whole world.

“Great!” Ella jiggled the dress in her hand. “But I’m changing into this first!”

Dizzy rolled her eyes and pointed to the closet. “Don’t forget the shoes.”

“Score!” Ella disappeared into the small space. A moment later the dress she’d been wearing sailed through the air and landed on the bed. Snorting at her friend’s utter carelessness, Dizzy picked it up and draped it neatly over the chair at her desk.

When Ella stepped out a few moments later, she looked effortlessly sexy. With that bee-stung pout and bewitching hazel eyes, she was a natural in her career as a muse. It was no wonder that companies lined up to have Ella showcase their products.

Once Dizzy had been in the same line of work. That was how they’d met as teenagers. Ella had been one of the muses Dizzy’s mother had recruited to work for the agency she owned.

But the explosion that had killed her mother and brought the Harcos civil war to Calyx had taken away any possibility of Dizzy succeeding in that career. The scars on her neck weren’t awful but they were noticeable—too noticeable.

Once recovered, she had moved behind the camera. There she had discovered her real passion. Designing clothing had provided her a steady income and a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. She couldn’t imagine how her life might have turned out if she hadn’t had her scissors and sewing needles to fall back on after the bombing ruined her chances of being a muse and stripped her family of its wealth and influence. She was damn lucky not to be living on the streets.

“Are you ready?”

Dizzy considered Ella’s question. In three words, Ella had captured her warring mindset perfectly. Was she ready?

* * * * *



“You ready for tomorrow?”

Jerking forward from the impact of Raze’s unexpected whack between his shoulder blades, Venom choked on his mouthful of pretzels. Raze laughed as Venom took a long drink of his cold beer to clear his throat. Coughing, he scowled at his best friend and watched him drop into the empty chair across the small table. “A little warning next time?”

Raze held up both hands. “Sorry.”

Placing his beer on the table, he loudly cleared his throat and considered his friend’s query. “Sure. I’m ready.”

Rather imperiously, Raze arched a dark eyebrow. “You sound rather relaxed for a man about to change his entire life with one silly race.”

He frowned at Raze. “It’s not a silly race. The Grab is one of our honored traditions.”

“That often ends in heartache,” Raze grumbled. “How many damn SRU calls have we been on in the last year with brides who want to leave their sky warrior husbands or for men fighting over a woman who got snatched away from her husband during the trial period?” He shook his head. “They’ve got to come up with a better way of screening these women than a damn lottery.”

Venom didn’t disagree with that. “The system isn’t perfect but it’s all we’ve got out here. If you want a wife and a family, it’s the Grab or one of the matchmaking services from back home.”

Raze’s jaw twitched at the mere mention of matchmaking. Venom was probably the only man on the warship Valiant brave enough to say the word around him.

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