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Alex(Rylee Adamson #5.5)(4) by Shannon Mayer

I sat quietly, breathed in her scent and the age that she was, which was not as old as she looked. Lavender soap was what she used and it seemed to have permeated her skin.

“Alex.” Rylee called me, and then snapped her fingers.

I slid backward to sit beside her, turning my face to hers with a grin across my lips. “Alex likes Giselle.”

“And Giselle likes Alex, but perhaps there is time for a chat about Alex later. I suppose you have a case? A child is missing?” Giselle pulled herself to her feet using the rocking chair’s armrests.

“Yes,” Rylee said and she shifted her weight on her feet, uncertainty whispering off her. “I think she’s a runaway. At least from what I’m picking up on.”

“Then you can Track her?” Giselle paused in her steps toward the door.

“Yes.”

“Then why are you here?”

Rylee let out a big sigh. “You are on the way, I thought I’d check on you.”

“Needles and pins needles and pins when a man marries, his trouble begins,” Giselle sung and then giggled. “I always liked that one. Wolf, can you dance with me?”

It seemed a logical request to me in my scattered brain, so I bounded toward her, springing up and flipping my paws out in a rhythm Giselle clapped.

“Enough,” Rylee snapped, her voice stalling me mid-stride. I slunk to her side. “Giselle, you haven’t been doing any readings for anyone, have you?”

“Milly, my witch, came for a reading with her newest beau. Lovely, those two. Handsome couple. But bad things if they stay together. Worse things if they separate.”

Rylee reached out and took Giselle’s hands. “You have to promise me, you won’t do anymore readings unless a life is on the line. The madness is progressing too fast.”

Giselle snatched her hands away. “Get out, I don’t know who you are or what you want with me, but get out.” She pointed a thin arm at the door, and Rylee backed away. After a moment, I followed her out and down the stairs.

She wiped at her face with the back of one hand, and I had the distinct feeling that crying wasn’t something she did often.

“Get in the car, Alex.” She pointed and I ran to do as she asked. I was Alex, that was my job. To help Rylee. To protect her.

Someone had told me to do that.

I fought with the Jeep door, finally getting the thing open and sliding into my seat. Awkward, my limbs and body didn’t sit well. So I shifted and shimmied until I was comfortable.

Rylee slid in beside me. “Okay, let’s go.” She adjusted her mirror and her eyes narrowed. “Shit, O’Shea, your timing is freaking perfect as always. This is not good.” Her eyes flicked over me and back to the mirror. I twisted in my seat.

“Stay here. I have to deal with this. If he see’s you, we’re both f**king toast.”

My eyes widened. “Alex no likes burnt toast.”

A laugh escaped her as she shoved her door open and stepped out. I put both claws on the edge of the black leather seat and peered with one eye out to the car that had pulled up behind us. A black sedan that looked very official. Out of it stepped a man who was much larger than Rylee and moved like a predator, but she didn’t seem worried, so I just watched… and listened.

“How am I not surprised?” Rylee flicked her head so her hair slid over one shoulder. “You have something particular you want to talk about, O’Shea?”

“Where were you last night?” O’Shea opened a notepad and seemed to read off it. “Between midnight and six am.”

“I was with my lovers, all three of them,” she quipped and his mouth tightened, but he barely paused.

“I’ll need all their names, addresses, and contact information.”

“Oh, I don’t know their names. I just pick them up at the bar, you know, casual-like. Easier that way. Harder for dumbass FBI agents to track them down, you know?”

“Adamson, you will damn well give me what I want, or I will have you up on charges so fast you won’t know what hit you.”

“Screw you, O’Shea,” She planted her hands on her hips. “I haven’t done anything worth charges.”

He tossed his notebook onto the hood of his car, and I gripped the seat as he stepped closer to her, lowering his voice. “Then why do I have a blood trail that leads to a cab that was supposed to drop off his fare at your doorstep?”

I crunched down into my seat, knowing that this was somehow my fault and maybe Rylee wouldn’t keep me. (Keep me? I wasn’t a pet.)

“People get dropped off at the wrong places all the time, idiot. Don’t you read your cop manuals? Or too busy reading the donut menu?” The crunch of her boots on the loose gravel drew close and I hunched down in my seat.

She slammed the door and buckled her seatbelt, but didn’t peel out with the Jeep as I thought she would. She used her blinker, pulled onto the road, and drove off rather politely for the anger I could smell rolling off her.

“That ass will use anything to jerk me up on charges.” She grumbled, her shoulders hunched a fraction of an inch. Just enough that I knew he bothered her, that it was more than a casual confrontation.

Silence reigned in the Jeep and I fought to keep my mind together, but it was like grasping at spider webs. I knew the pieces were there, could feel them even, but I couldn’t see them.

Deidre. I clung to her name, even if what she looked like was gone. After an hour of driving, taking turn after turn, Rylee pulled over. We were in a very rundown part of town. Though the name of the place escaped me, I recognized it. I’d walked here, walked these streets looking for something. Something important that had gone missing. Damn my brain and the holes spreading in it. The buildings looked as if they’d been through a rough period, holes in the windows, doors hanging on hinges, concrete cracked and chunks missing. There were very few people on the street, and those that walked past us didn’t even look up.

Rylee tapped the steering wheel, her eyes going distant and the three colors spinning faster, blurring together. “You stay in the Jeep.” Her hands drifted over her body, touching the handles of her swords, blades, tightening straps and adjusting everything.

I watched her, eyes and heart drooping, then gave a soft woof. “Alex comes. Helps Deidre too.” I had to go with her. Deidre was the only one I remembered. Maybe she could help me hang onto what was left of me. A faint hope it might be, but it was all I had.

“I can’t hide you, Alex. And you will freak the humans out.”

My lower lip trembled. “Please.”

She rolled her eyes and tipped her head back against her seat. “Shit.”

I put my front paws together, as if I were praying. “Please. Alex goes too.”

She scrubbed a hand over her face. “Just wait here a second.” Reaching into the dashboard she pulled out a geriatric looking cell phone, and then stepped out of the cab. Even with the door shut, I could hear her clearly. Maybe there were a few perks to this werewolf business.

Her hand gripped the cellphone so hard her knuckles turned white, but it seemed to work for her. “Milly, I know you’re shacking up around here. Can you do me a favor?”

I couldn’t hear the response, but Rylee nodded. “Yeah, I need something to hide a werewolf.” She glanced over her shoulder at me, her eyes taking me in. “Maybe a collar?”

My tail thumped against the seat. She was going to take me with her.

Hanging up the cellphone, she opened up the door and chucked the phone back into the dash. “Ten minutes. You better hope it doesn’t cost this kid her life.”

I swallowed hard. I hadn’t thought of that, of Deidre being in real trouble, of her being more than just a runaway.

A whine worked its way up my throat and I struggled to not let it turn into a full fledged howl of fear.

Rylee seemed to sense my issue. “Be quiet, or it won’t matter if Milly can turn you into a f**king mouse, I won’t take you with me.” She turned sideways so that her legs were out the door, but she still sat in the driver’s seat.

The whine died in my throat and I leaned forward to put my head on Rylee’s shoulder and whispered. “Alex quiet.”

She reached up and scratched behind one of my ears. Damn that felt good, I leaned into her fingers, rubbed my chin along the bones of her shoulder. Fifteen minutes passed before a woman I assumed was Milly strolled into view. She wore a flowing green dress that hung to her knees and clung to her curves, and matched her green eyes.

“Got lonely out at that rickety old farmhouse?” Milly smiled when she said that, but I could smell her and she smelled… funny. But I didn’t know what it was, just something that tickled my nose and made me… I sneezed hard, bashing my head into the roof of the Jeep. Like sulfur and a night with no moon, her smell bothered me.

Rylee laughed and shook her head. “I’m getting this salvage done and then I’ll find him a home. He won’t be staying with me.”

Milly just smiled. “Okay, well, this collar is temporary, maybe it will last for a few hours, if you’re lucky.”

The collar was a thin braid of leather done in three colors, black, white, and red. Rylee took it and put it around my neck, tying the ends together. A tingle ran through me, a shiver of energy that centered around my neck. It didn’t hurt, but I knew it was there. Knew something was happening. I blinked up at her and she nodded. “Looks good. Now you can come, but you stay right next to me and no talking. Not a word.”

I crossed my heart with a claw. Anything to find Deidre. Whoever she was, I thought she was important to me for some reason. “Gots it.”

Milly didn’t come with us. She waved and walked back down the street. She lived here? She didn’t seem to fit with her fancy dress and beauty and then the rundown state of the area. But my mind didn’t linger long on the stinking witch or her motives for living in a bad part of town.

I shook my head and pressed up against Rylee’s leg, tension rippling through me. The little my brain wanted to remind me about was telling me that this was a really, really bad idea. That this place was ugly on a lot of levels. Gangs, shootings, murder, and suicide were rampant here. Not a place I wanted to be, but if Deidre was here, then we had to get her out.