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Alex(Rylee Adamson #5.5)(3) by Shannon Mayer

“Oh, his pack was chasing him earlier. He’s here for the day.” She didn’t look my way, just waved at me while she read her papers.

I lowered myself to my belly and tried to grin up at Charlie. If I really wanted to stay with Rylee, then I would have to get her friends to like me. At least, that was how it had worked in the clubs when I was trying to get information.

“Stop with the grinning, wolf, it’s fecking awful.” Charlie turned from me with a shudder and I got a whiff of daisies and fresh cut grass, my brain translating that into brownie.

That didn’t make sense, a brownie smelled like chocolate, not daisies and grass.

Charlie shook his head. “Rylee, yous understand what he is, don’ts yous?”

She paused in her shuffling of the paperwork. “What do you mean? He’s a werewolf, what else is there?”

I was totally confused and yet completely engrossed. This was information I needed if I was going to figure out how to get out of this situation. I crept forward so that I was at her feet, pressing up against her lower leg. That physical contact soothed my nerves, and eased the fear tightening in bands around my middle.

Charlie snorted and pulled his suspenders out and then back again, stretching them. “He’s stuck, he’s a submissive, which means he won’ts be coming back from this. How yous sees him is hows it will be for him for the rest of his fecking life. All of it.”

No, that couldn’t be. I pressed harder into her leg, clinging to her jeans, a whimper slipping out of me.

Rylee lowered her papers, but didn’t acknowledge me at her feet. “Then why would his pack be chasing him, if he’s stuck like this? Wouldn’t they protect him?”

“Probably trying to kill him. There’s a reason we don’t see submissives.”

Rylee went still, I could feel her muscles go silent, like her entire body was processing what he said.

A shiver ran through me. “Alex scared.” Damn, when I wanted to speak, I couldn’t and when my emotions got the better of me I couldn’t shut the hell up.

She dropped a hand to the top of my head and I tightened my grip on her, feeling in her hand the safety every fiber in me screamed I needed. Humbled to my core, every bad thing I’d ever thought about strong women went out the window. I needed her on a level I couldn’t begin to process.

Rylee was the one thing standing between my survival and my death; I couldn’t let her push me away. “Please, Alex stays.”

Her jaw flexed and she stared at the papers in her hands. “You can come with me, just this one time, and we’ll find you somewhere safe.”

“No, no, no. Ryleeeeeeee keeps Alex.”

“Shits, Rylee,” Charlie muttered. “He’s a clingy bastard, isn’t he?” He lifted a finger in the air. “Wait. I have something on this.” Two strides and he was through the open doorway and disappeared.

I started and gave a woof, shock filtering through me. “Gone.”

“Yeah, Charlie is a brownie, they can use doors and windows to travel wherever they want. Sweet deal; it’s too damn bad they can’t take people with them.”

A few minutes passed and then Charlie reappeared with a thin leather book in his hands. “Heres it is.” He cracked it open and handed it to Rylee.

She read it out loud, her fingers skimming along with her reading. “A submissive is made when the human soul is broken. The first twenty-four hours, the human soul is still aware of its surroundings, but with each passing hour it slips further into the recesses of the wolf’s mind until there is naught left but a shadow of its former self.”

She glanced down at me. “But how do we know how new he is?”

Charlie let out a sigh. “Probably very new, if he’s nots been killed yet. The packs, they has no tolerance for weakness. No ways to tell for sures.”

I clung to Rylee’s legs. I couldn’t help it, I couldn’t let go of her. Not even if I’d wanted to, which at that moment, I knew in my bones that she was my only chance. Somehow, I believed she would help me.

“What the hell am I supposed to do with a gods-be-damned werewolf?” She threw her hands into the air, then flipped the book back Charlie.

“I never said yous have to keep him.” Charlie grinned at her. God, I hoped that was a good sign.

She glared at him. “You’re looking at me like I should, though.” Charlie let out a laugh that seemed too loud for his tiny body. I ended up laughing with him while I clung to her legs.

Charlie shook his head. “Good lucks to yous with getting rid of that one. You going after the kid now?”

His abrupt change of topic didn’t seem to throw Rylee, and I struggled to put it back together, the pieces of what was going on. Like a thick fuzz was layering over my brain.

The submission makes you dumb. You are losing what is left to it. In less than a day you will be gone and the Alex they see is all that will be left. My mouth dried up as those words rippled through my head. I wanted to ask who he was, how he knew these things.

I am the spirit of the Great Wolf. When I am born again, you will know me, and then a chance to be who you are again will be presented. But you must be brave. You must stay with the Tracker, and you must protect her despite your fears.

This was not happening. I couldn’t lose who I was, that was… .

“Ridiculous, yuppy doody!” I barked out. A weird mixture of excitement and desire to belong rippled through me. Rylee would keep me, she had to, so as she strode out of the house, I followed, and I forgot that I was supposed to be trying to find a way out of this.

All that mattered was that I was with her. She was my pack.

Protect her. Yes, that much I could do. Maybe I could do that.

I fiddled with the door of the Jeep until she opened it for me, and I leapt up and in, my tail crunching under my butt. But I didn’t care. I was with Rylee… no, I had to remember who I was. I could do that much. I was Alex, I had been human just last night.

“So tell me about yourself, Alex.” Rylee slid into the driver’s side and clicked on her seatbelt before starting up the Jeep. The words tumbled in my head, bouncing off one another as I fought what I wanted to say.

“Shoe salesman.” I spit the words out, which was so stupid I wanted to laugh, but no, I couldn’t even do that when I wanted to. My a**hole father had been the shoe salesman.

“Hmm. Sounds exciting.”

“Yuppy doody,” I yipped, slurping my tongue along the edge of the window. And as we drove, I stared out the window and recounted as much of my life as I could. My last name was gone, as was the name of my dead mother and a**hole shoe salesman father. There was a sister, she was younger than me. Everything in me fought to hang onto her, she had been the reason I’d stayed home, to try and help her. But I hadn’t helped. Name, what was her name… ‘D’ it started with a ‘D’.

“Deidre,” I barked out.

Rylee shifted in her seat. “How did you know the name of the salvage we’re going after?”

Eyes wide, I turned my head and stared at Rylee. “Deidre?”

“Yeah, that’s the name of the kid who’s gone missing, she’s been gone for months, and it looks like a runaway. We’ll go see Giselle first, make sure it isn’t anything major we need to worry about.” She flicked the blinker on her Jeep and I struggled to comprehend as my brain seemed to slide into another level of simplicity. Deidre had run away, and I’d tried to hire a woman who specialized in finding kids, someone I’d heard about on the street. Was the paperwork the stuff I sent to her?

I snuffled the papers on the dashboard until I could see the handwriting and even in my simple state, in the signature, the words were undeniable. It was my handwriting, my words.

This was the woman I’d contracted to find my little sister. And now I was going to help her find Deidre and bring her home.

Giselle’s home had ghosts, and I don’t mean ghosts of the kind that people didn’t talk about. Hell, I could see them floating between the walls, pushing their way around so they could get a better look at us. Five of them, four women and one man, all dressed in strange clothes from what looked like different time periods. Rylee didn’t seem to see them, though, walking through one of them. I, on the other hand, worked my way around them, the very idea of walking through them giving me the willies.

“Giselle?” Rylee called out as we walked through the living room. I pressed myself against her leg, the specters and their empty eyes unnerving me, the hair along my spin rising into a semi-stiff peak.

“Ghosties,” I whispered.

Rylee ignored me. “Giselle, where are you?”

Her voice floated down the stairs to us, singing a tune I didn’t recognize, but the words were clear. “Hush baby, my doll, I pray you don’t cry, and I’ll give you some bread and some milk by and by; or perhaps you like custard, or maybe a tart, then to either you’re welcome with all of my heart. Hush baby, my doll.”

I followed Rylee up the creaking stairs, placing my feet gingerly on each step, feeling as if they would break below me if I wasn’t careful.

At the top of the stair, light slanted through an open door, the sounds of Giselle’s singing fading into a low hum. Rylee didn’t seem worried and she didn’t smell fearful. (You shouldn’t be smelling her feelings, man; that is too f**king weird) I swallowed hard and stepped through the open door after Rylee.

A grey-haired women sat in a rocking chair in the far corner of the room where the shadows hid much of her face. Sadness rippled off her, sadness and a pain so deep I shuddered to think of what had caused it. Creeping forward, I slid my feet along the carpet until I could put my head into her lap. She smelled of incense and the deepest night air with a hint of old books, and my brain kicked into gear.

Reader. Whatever that was, Giselle was it.

“What is this?” She leaned over me, hugging my head to her chest. “Rylee, you have brought quite something home this time. Hardly a bird with a broken wing.”