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Blind Salvage(Rylee Adamson #5)(12) by Shannon Mayer

Doran pressed a hand to his heart, batting his eyes. “You wound me. But even if you had tried, I would have stayed. I have a message for you, Rylee.” His green eyes darted away from mine, unable to make contact. Crap, we’d done this dance before. Everything in me tensed. It seemed that lately, Doran was my messenger boy, and none of the news he had for me was good. I didn’t like it.

“She sent you something for me?” She being my little sister-turned-psycho-vampire, Berget. I was just guessing that she was the one with the message for me. Who else would Doran have contact with? Louisa and the other shamans would just contact me through Dox. They wouldn’t use Doran. I really didn’t want any messages from Berget. Like as in pretty please leave me the hell alone.

“I did not see her, but yes, she sent one of her messengers to me. She wants to make peace between you and her.” He did make eye contact with me then, and in them I could see the fear that I would take her up on her offer. Not likely after everything he’d told me.

I snorted, let the interior tumbling of my emotions continue while I did my best to keep my face smooth. “You mean after she tried to have us killed, and didn’t succeed, she wants to make nice? Play in the sandbox together like one big happy messed up family?”

Doran shrugged and slid closer. I put a hand on his chest, keeping him at arm’s-length, my eyes flicking to Liam. Doran was a touchy feely kind of guy. Though I didn’t actually care, Liam would. “That’s close enough, thanks.”

“She wants to hire you to Track for her. The money is considerable; you probably would never have to work again. Could go pro bono for every other salvage for the rest of your life.”

I drummed my fingers along the wooden bar, not really contemplating. I already knew my answer. “Would you do it for her, if you could?”

His eyes were as serious as I’d ever seen them. “Not even for the redemption of my soul would I do this for her. It will solidify her as the Empress if you do what she wants, and that is something the world cannot have.” He paused and gave me a wink. “In my humble opinion.”

“Humble. Yeah.” I took the glass of orange juice Dox slid across to me and took a sip before saying anything else. “What is it that she wants me to Track, do you know?”

He shook his head. “No, I don’t know. I was to give you the message that she wishes peace and wants to hire you. That’s it.”

Dox snorted. “Like always, not much help, are you?”

Doran turned to him. “Tell me, how is it that you came to be here, in this ogre-less place, anyway? Did you leave to see the world? No, wait, that’s right, you were kicked out, banished by your own kind because of how weak you are—”

Dox smacked the flat of his hand on the bar, startling the hell out of me and stopping Doran mid-sentence. His eyes narrowed and a faint purple flush ran up his neck and over face. “Shut your mouth before I remind you why even Daywalkers don’t piss off ogres.”

Well, well. This was a side of Dox I’d never seen. Not in all the years I’d known him had he been anything but pleasant. I’d never seem him pull any of the ‘ogre-ish’ tantrums I’d heard about his kind.

His eyes flicked to mine and he let out a big breath, the additional color fading from his blue skin. “Sorry.”

Fatigue washed through me, and as much as I wanted to wait up for the a**holes that had a missing kid and thought blackmailing me was a good idea, I also knew I needed to sleep if my body was going to be even close to healed for this salvage.

“Doran, tell the messenger no. I won’t do it. I won’t help her.”

He nodded and let out a sigh of relief. “She won’t give up. She will try to force your hand.”

“I know.”

Berget was a spoiled child and she wanted what she wanted. No doubt her next message would be less polite. Seriously, even knowing that all families are messed up to some degree, this—having a psycho, power hungry vampire for a sister—was going a bit far. Even for me.

“Dox, you’ll let us know if anyone shows up?” I knew his schedule was wonky, awake all night, and then sleeping through the better part of the day, so I could trust that he would be awake to receive this parent when they showed up.

He rapped his big knuckles on the bar twice. “You bet, Rylee.”

I slid off the stool, but Doran stopped me, his hand shooting out to grab my elbow. “Do you have your obsidian blade, the one I sent for you?”

Frowning, it took me a second to remember that he had indeed sent me an obsidian blade via Eve on her last trip home from New Mexico. “No. Why? Is it something special?”

His eyebrows quirked up to his hairline. “You just need to keep it with you.”

Warmth circled around me as Liam moved to stand behind me. “Why does she need it?”

Doran let out an exasperated sigh. “Listen, getting a read on Rylee is impossible, you know that, right?”

Neither of us moved, and Doran seemed to take that for encouragement.

“So when I have a niggling suspicion that you need something, Tracker, I follow through. I don’t know why you need the damn blade with all the other ones you have. Just that you need it. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but at some point, you will need it.”

I shook my head; there was nothing I could do about it. The blade was at home in North Dakota. “I’ll get it when we’re home next. For right now, I’m going to bed.”

As we walked across the parking lot, Liam took my hand. “We still need to talk about Alex.”

I stopped walking. “Seriously, now?”

He glared at me, his jaw working for a moment before he answered. “No, that discussion can wait until after the salvage. But this can’t be ignored.”

“Fine, after the salvage, once we’re home, we can talk about Alex.” Yeah, not like I was going to for one second let Liam pull the alpha card. Just because he was an alpha, it didn’t mean he had to act like one all the time. Okay, shit, I knew that was naïve on my part. Maybe I’d just dealt with too many a**hole alphas and there was a large part of me that was worried Liam would take that route.

Our room was cool and the sheets downright frosty, but with Liam wrapped around me, I warmed up fast. And that was the beautiful part of him and me. Only moments before we’d been glaring at each other, and he wasn’t happy with me. But there was no way we’d let that get between us. Not after everything we’d fought through.

Again, Liam passed out before me, but I wasn’t far behind.

This time there was no Berget, no Giselle. Nothing but a blissful, deep sleep that was interrupted by a loud banging on our door.

“Rylee, you’d better get your ass out here,” Dox called, his voice only slightly muffled by the thick door.

I groaned and rolled over in bed, reaching for a pillow to cover my head before I remembered the night before.

Eve. The missing kid. The psycho father showing up.

As I flipped off the covers, my skin danced with goose bumps, the cold air waking me faster than anything else could have. I slid into my clothes, my ribs feeling like they were about ninety-eight percent. Good, I wanted to be able to run this ass hat through if he gave me even a tiny bit of grief.

Liam was dressed, and he handed me my swords as I slid the straps of my shoulder holsters on. I took the swords from him and slid them home, then strapped on my whip so that it hung low on my hip.

“Ready?” He asked.

“Yeah, let’s get this over with and get this psycho’s kid home.”

Liam led the way, and I slammed the door behind me. Dox waited for us, his eyes wide.

“The father is in the courtyard, behind the bar.”

“Is it that bad?”

He just shook his head. “Not what I was expecting, that’s all. And don’t ask me to tell you, you wouldn’t believe me if I did.”

“Well, that’s just awesome,” I muttered. This was one of those times that I wanted to remind people how much I hated surprises. They never turned out well in my world.

Never.

Liam put his hand out, blocking me. “A plan would be good here.” Damn, he was like a broken record lately.

My fist clenched involuntarily and I forced myself to relax. “I’m just going to talk to them. No fighting today.”

“Unless they piss you off.”

“Yeah, I thought that was obvious.”

Of course, if I’d known what was waiting for me in the courtyard, I wouldn’t have been worried about getting pissed off. I would have been more worried about me being run through.

Chapter 7

IS THAT WHAT I think it is?” Liam breathed out beside me.

There was no way to answer that without sounding like a condescending bitch. It’s a freaking unicorn, what do you think it is? Just doesn’t have a polite ring to it. And there it was, a gods-be-damned unicorn, standing in the middle of Dox’s courtyard. Silent and motionless, if I hadn’t known better I would have thought I was looking at a statue. Except that when the wind blew hard, the stallion’s jet-black mane and tail flew out around him. How did I know it was a stallion? Because I’d met him once before, on the first salvage Liam had ever done with me.

Like a waking dream, staring at him reminded me again that there were beautiful and good creatures on this side of the supernatural, they were just few and far between.

A single, golden horn jut from the middle of his forehead, but otherwise, he was a solid, glistening black from his hooves to the tips of his ears. Leader of the Tamoskin Crush, he had struck me as fair and wise. Not the psycho I was waiting on. Unless he was here for something else? Only one way to find out.

“Wait here for me.” I slid out of my weapons, laying them one at a time on the bar.

Liam put a hand over mind. “What are you doing? You don’t know that he won’t attack you.”

“If I can’t even trust a unicorn, then this world has a hell of a lot more problems than a few missing kids.”