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Blind Salvage(Rylee Adamson #5)(1) by Shannon Mayer

Chapter 1

I HATED SAYING GOODBYE almost as much as I hated Monday mornings. And this day had both of those brilliant things mashed together.

“Rylee, you don’t have to leave, you know that, right?” Will tried to capture my eyes with his. I avoided his seeking gaze and instead looked out across the pond, reliving recent memories as I stared. I could feel again the fear and adrenaline as the Beast ran me down, the crush of Eve’s talons as she snatched me from his grasp in mid-air. The specter of death had hovered close lately. How many times had I dodged his grasping hands since arriving on this side of the ocean? Nothing had gone as planned, so much death and pain … so much loss.

I closed my eyes and memories far worse assaulted me, battered at me and forced me to feel them again. Berget’s death rocketed through me, tearing what was left of my heart into pieces, and then the shock with her apparent re-birth as a vampire, her eyes pleading with me to side with her. To turn my back on Liam, Pamela, and Alex. To help her become the Empress in truth, so that she would have control of the vampire nation.

She forced me to make a decision between the family I dreamed of and the family who’d stood by me through thick and thin. And I’d chosen to turn my back on her; I’d left her behind.

Will’s fingers brushed along the back of my neck snapping me back to the present. I stepped away from him and gave him a glare for good measure. He was lucky we were friends or I would have done a hell of a lot more than glare at him.

“No. I have to go. This isn’t my home and I don’t belong here.” I looked around me. My bag of weapons was at my feet, full of all sorts of goodies. Alex splashed at the edge of the pond, near Deanna and Pamela. We were as ready to go as we ever would be.

Deanna hugged Pamela and whispered something in the young witch’s ear. While Deanna had petitioned me to let Pamela stay with her and train to become a druid, Pamela chose to come with me. Unlike her predecessor, Deanna had let it go at that. Good thing too. I would have hated to kill her when she’d helped me get Liam back. Her predecessor though—I would have gladly removed Daniels’ stupid head from the rest of her, but this time around that hadn’t been my job. Nor had I been given the chance.

Even before we made it back from Venice, Daniels had gone ‘missing’, and Deanna was back in charge of the druids. I had to give it to the Beast, he didn’t waste any time making good on his word to clean house with Daniels. One less lunatic in the world was a good thing. Particularly when the lunatic had a serious hate on for yours truly.

Will surprised me again, pulling me out of my thoughts, as he tugged me into his arms. Hugging me tight to his chest, his arms clamped around my upper body as if he would hold me there forever, his heart beating hard against mine. He spoke softly into my ear, his breath tickling my skin, warm and gentle.

“You will always have a place here, Rylee. I need you to know that. No matter what comes, you would be safe here, with me.” He held on too long and I squirmed, more than feeling the overtones of what he wanted, of what I couldn’t reciprocate. Maybe, maybe if Liam hadn’t come back to me this moment would be a different story. But Liam had come back, so there was no guessing about this, about Will, for me. Besides, if he thought he could keep me safe in a world where death and disaster were my constant companions, he didn’t know me as well as he thought he did.

A low growl came from the left of us, and Will let me go. Kinda. He still hung onto my forearms as he glared over at Liam, letting out a low rumbling kitty cat growl of his own. I jerked my arms out of Will’s hands, but it didn’t help. The testosterone and tension in the air grew heavy, broken up only by sheer luck. Alex bolted in between us, slammed into me and then Will, like a freaking ping pong game gone awry, and then knocked us both to our knees.

“Home, home, hooooooooooooome!” His howl quivered in the air, dissipating the two alphas’ staring match. His timing was perfect, and I let out a quiet sigh of relief. I didn’t want to play referee between the two alphas. I had enough on my hands just trying to keep us all alive.

In the two days since Liam had been back, this was the third time the two alpha shifters had started to lock horns. And it was the third time Alex had interrupted them, essentially keeping them from each others’ throats. Sensitive as the submissive werewolf was, I wondered if he picked up on the combative vibes, didn’t like them, and had realized he had the ability to stop the fights before they even occurred. But was he really that intuitive? As if to confirm my thoughts, he rolled his eyes up to mine as I stood. One long slow wink and he put his index claw to his muzzle.

Smiling, I reached down and scratched him behind his ears. “Alex, you are the best.”

His tongue lolled out, flipping spit as he nodded vigorously. “Alex knows that.”

With a laugh, I stepped away from Will, putting Liam between us, and headed to the car, acting like nothing had happened. One thing I’d learned with supernaturals, you just moved on. No need to point out what could have been, unless you were spoiling for a fight. Particularly with alphas.

A part of me wished Eve was still here, that I could hop on her back and fly the hell away from all of this. But Eve had already left, choosing to hopscotch across Iceland and down the east coast of Canada before banking to the west to North Dakota. The trip would take her a few days, maybe a week depending on her wings, and she’d probably get home not long after us. She knew to take it slow, but even with that, I worried. She was young and wanted to prove herself. I knew what that did to people. The need to prove oneself could make you stupid and encourage stupid decisions. I, of all people, should know that better than most.

Will cleared his throat, maybe started to say something, but was cut off.

I turned around in time to see Liam lift his hand, his light golden eyes narrowing. “Enough. She isn’t yours and she isn’t staying here. Let it go, cat, before this gets ugly.”

Wow. I swallowed hard, a part of me bucking under his assertion that I was his, as in belonging to him, as in not my own person. I took a deep breath, opened my mouth and then shut it with a click. Maybe I’d matured, probably not, but whatever the case, I let that bucking part of me settle down, calmed it with the simple truth: Liam was right, but it went both ways. I was his, and he was mine through and through.

Will needed to understand that. He drew himself up, his brown eyes bleeding to the kitty cat green that preceded a shift to his panther form, and irises contracting as the feline in him rose up.

“Why don’t you let her decide that for herself? Damn wolves, you think you rule the whole bloody world.”

Liam tensed, fists clenching. At his feet, Alex let out a whimper. Looked like it was my turn to break things up.

Yippy.

“Seriously?” I put my hands on my hips. “Grow up, Will. Untwist your balls from the knot they’re in and chill the hell out.”

Pamela joined us, her face clearly showing her confusion, as she glanced from Will to me to Liam. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Say goodbye to Will. We’re leaving.” I pointed at him and she shyly stepped close to him to give him a hug, her face pinking up, lashes lowered over her bright blue eyes.

He spoke to Pamela, but his eyes never left mine, the intensity in them undeniable, even though there was no return of emotion on my part.

“Stay clear of wolves, they will pull you apart.”

Damn, he was going to push this with every second we had left here. Liam flexed his muscles and growled under his breath, and I had no doubt we were as close to a fight between the two of them as we’d ever been.

We needed to leave, now, or there was going to be a mangled body that had once belonged to a friend. Someone would get hurt badly, or worse, killed. And I knew it wouldn’t be Liam dying, not with the Guardian blood flowing through him. No matter how much Alex might interfere, the two men were going to come to blows very soon. And I really didn’t want to stitch either of them up. Will was a friend and an ally, but I would always stand with Liam.

Always.

I flicked a hand beckoning to Alex who scampered to my side. He whispered out the corner of his mouth. “Boss is maddy mad.”

“Yeah, but he’ll chill out once we get home.” Gods, I hoped that would be the case.

A quiver ran along my shoulders, a solid feeling of being watched rolling through me. I turned to see Jack standing in the doorway, watching us leave. He hadn’t spoken to me since Liam had shifted back, and Milly had stolen the violet book of prophecies. He didn’t come down to see us off, or even wave goodbye. Not that I cared, at least that’s what I told myself. The old bastard had lied and manipulated me with the best of them. Not something I tolerated well on my good days. But a part of me felt sorry for him, and I fought the urge to go and tell him he could come with us, that he didn’t have to die alone. In that, Jack was right. I had to start putting my foot down. No more charity cases, no more wards to take care of. I had enough trouble keeping those I cared about alive as it was.

The sound of tires on gravel brought my head around. Our ride was already here. Who the hell was it now?

A black, sleek sedan rolled to a stop, blocking off the driveway. Liam’s former boss—and my one time boss—Agent Valley pulled his short stubby body out of the car with some effort.

“Adamson,” he said, straightening his suit coat over his portly frame (which didn’t really help). “Why is it that I had to learn through the rumor mill that you’d found Agent O’Shea?”

I pursed my lips. “Sorry, my secretary must have lost that memo. Alex, why didn’t you tell Agent Valley we’d found Liam?”

Alex did an exaggerated point at himself his lips twisting comically. “Rylee said no tells.”

“Right, that’s why.” I lifted an eyebrow at Agent Valley.

Liam moved up beside me. He had shaved off the beard, but had left his hair long. Black as the night sky, it brushed the top of his shoulders, very definitely not FBI agent styled; there would be no more short cropped brush cut for him. I liked it.