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Blind Salvage(Rylee Adamson #5)(13) by Shannon Mayer

Liam slid his hand from mine slowly, reluctance in his every move. “Be sure about this, Rylee.”

Swallowing hard, I nodded. “I am.”

He stepped back and I opened the door to the courtyard. If the stallion was here because of a missing child, all I could wonder was how the hell the kid had been stolen. A unicorn crush was harmless until threatened, and then you’d better hope that they didn’t mistake you for an enemy. There were not many supernatural creatures that could stand and survive the single-horned equines when they worked together.

I closed the distance between us, leaving about ten feet of space.

Just in case.

Tracker, there is no time for pleasantries. A foal has been stolen, the first born to us in fifty years. His words rang through my mind, not unlike Blaz’s voice, but with a distinctly different feel. Like a bell being rung as opposed to the distant rumble of thunder that was Blaz’s voice.

“I can vouch for Eve, you need to let her go.” I put my hands on my h*ps and spread my feet slightly apart. “She hasn’t even been on this continent for the last few weeks, and even flying straight across she would have just arrived home. No time to go foal-napping.”

He shook his head, mane flicking in the frosty air. I smelled lavender and springtime, even though neither was possible.

The crush has spoken; she will be held until the child is returned. Though we are not happy with her presence, you are showing her the way to her roots, to the Harpies of old that we danced with on moonless nights. No, I do not believe your Evening Star did this.

He pawed at the tiled courtyard with an iron hard hoof and tossed his head again, mane flying about. His hide shivered, as if touched with flies. But I knew there were no flies, not in this weather. And what was this about Eve? She was my Evening Star? This was one of those times I just pushed it all away. Supernaturals loved their ‘Confucius says’ shit. You just had to learn to ignore it, or you’d end up never able to do anything, so afraid that you might take a step wrong.

“You want me to Track your foal?”

Yes. Track her, and bring her home. Sorrow, heavy and thick like fog in the morning, laced his words.

I removed my hands from my hips, slid them into my pockets. “This is your daughter that’s gone missing?”

Yes. She was stolen away from us, six nights ago. There were no footprints, no sign of another passing this way. Harpies were our first thought. Except for a single mark in the snow, there was nothing. Again he tossed his head, eyes flashing. But there are no Harpies in this area except for your Eve. If you do not find my daughter quickly, it will be all I can do to keep the crush from ending her life, regardless that I know it was not her. Our children, they do not come along often and are treasured by all.

Crap, I would have to move fast. If I didn’t find the foal, Eve was toast. “So we’re assuming something that flies took your daughter? What did the mark in the snow look like? Presumably something large enough to pick up a … how old is she?”

She is nigh on six months old, a suckling filly, yet. Unable to fend for herself, her horn is a bare nub on her forehead, dull and useless. He gave a long, low snort. The mark resembled that of a talon or claw, digging through the crusted snow.

I tapped a toe on the bare red tiles. Already the urge to go after the foal had begun to eat at me. Like a sickness I had no cure for, Tracking was something I couldn’t run away from, didn’t want to. Unlike other things.

“I need a picture of her, and her name.”

Her name is Calliope. She will be our mystic when she is of age.

Without any warning, an image flashed in my mind, the ‘picture’ I would need to Track the foal. Gangly long legs, petite head and ears, miniature nubbin of a golden horn. Her body was white as new snow, but her mane and tail were jet black, and she had black socks up to her knees on all four legs. A black star sat at the base of her horn. She was stunningly colored, and I knew without asking that she would be a prize mare in the tribe as she grew, regardless of her apparent status as an up and coming mystic.

I closed my eyes and Tracked her, tied myself into her threads. Her life force beat strong through me, humming lightly with an energy very different than the human children I Tracked. For lack of a better term, her threads vibrated, dancing and jumping about as if they were a true electrical pulse.

“Her name suits her. Is there anything else I should know?”

If I had more information, I would give it. Bring her home, Tracker, and you will have our loyalty past the day that you die.

“Well. Thanks.” I frowned. “She may not be alive, when I bring her to you, you need to know that. And that cannot affect the outcome of Eve’s life.”

Just bring her home, and all will be as it was. There was no threat, no ‘or else.’ Just those words echoing inside my skull, and then he spun on his haunches, the tile below his feet cracking, springing up around him in large shards that hovered in the air for a split second, and then crashed to the ground.

I watched him gallop away, his black coat disappearing into the darkness that was left of the morning.

A hand touched my shoulder, and Liam leaned his head close. The scent of distant winter mountains, pine trees and a faint hint of musk swirled around me. I reached up and touched his hand where it curled around my shoulder.

His eyes searched my face. “How bad is it?”

I stared at the place where the stallion had stood, the possibilities swirling through my mind.

“Maybe not as bad as I thought. A simple salvage, and Eve will be safe.” I glanced over my shoulder at him. He frowned.

“Is it ever a simple salvage?”

I let out a sigh. “Unfortunately for me, no.”

We went back inside and I grabbed my weapons, quickly putting them back on. “Dox, I need a favor.”

The ogre twisted up his lips. “Depends on what you want.”

“Your truck.”

He grimaced, and I raised my hands, palms up. “What the hell, I’ve never wrecked a vehicle.” I didn’t count flipping my Jeep when I was under the influence of the Hoarfrost demon. In my mind, that wasn’t my fault.

He continued to grimace, but I could see through it, he was just making it look like this was hard. The thing about Dox was, he always came through. He was one of my better friends.

“Where are you going to take my baby?” He propped himself with his hip against the bar.

I Tracked Calliope, her vibrating threads a pleasant hum inside my skull, soothing away the last of the ache in my body. Now that was an interesting development. I shook it off and focused on the where of her.

“Pacific Northwest.”

Dox paled, as in his blue skin faded to a dull gray in a matter of heartbeats. That couldn’t be good.

“That’s ogre country. You don’t want to be going there, Rylee. There’s a reason you don’t find other supernaturals round about there.” He waved his hands—the size of frying pans—back and forth. “That is a seriously bad idea.”

I grunted. I’d never Tracked into that area before. The outskirts of it, yes, but never into the Pacific Northwest itself.

“Doesn’t matter, Dox. If that’s where the foal is, that’s where I’m going.”

He licked his lips, but the fear on him was obvious. So much so that he wouldn’t even meet my eyes. Shit, that did not bode well for us. Doran had said he’d been kicked out for being weak … damn, I wasn’t sure I could push him on this.

I stepped back. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll rent a truck.” Liam leaned over the bar, shook Dox’s hand. “Thanks for your help. Next time we’re here, I’d like to have another go at your beer. See if it still kicks my ass.”

The ogre watched us go, but didn’t stop us.

“I thought he’d offer some advice at least,” Liam grumbled as we grabbed the last of my weapons and gear from our room.

I counted my weapons and the few pre-made spells I’d had Deanna make for me before we left. “Doesn’t matter, if he was kicked out at a young age, he won’t be much help. My training with Giselle covered ogres. I probably know more than he does.”

Liam tried to phone a car rental company and promptly handed me the receiver. All I got was static and then, as Liam stepped away, the static faded and I could hear the ringing line. Shit, it looked like he was going to be the problem when it came to technology now. Next to him, I was almost normal. Almost.

While I spoke to the agent, all I could think about was that Dox didn’t think this—going into the Pacific Northwest—was a good idea, and he’d seen me in some of my worst situations and never batted an eyelash. Hell, he’d just seen me get an impromptu surgery in the back of his truck without so much as a ‘hey that’s not very sanitary, you know.’

I hung up the phone. “They’ll have a truck here in an hour.”

Liam flopped onto the bed. His hand drifted to the spot just below his heart, where his gun used to sit. I knew what it was to be without a weapon when you were so used to it.

“You want something to fill that spot?”

His eyes flicked to his hand. “You got a gun that would work?”

I raised my eyebrows at him. “Really, you want a gun?”

He shrugged, but his face sobered. Yeah, I remembered his last partner too, and the wayward bullet from Liam’s gun that had taken his life. No need to repeat that scenario.

“Maybe not. What else have you got?”

I dug into the new bag Dox had provided us with, now stuffed with all my weapons. Along with the black demon book.

I grabbed the tome, my heart icing over. “Hang onto that thought, I’ll be right back.”

Jogging out of the room, I slipped into the bar. Dox leaned against the bar, his eyes closed as if deep in thought. I cleared my throat.

“Dox, can you stick this in your safe?”

He reached for it, and took the burlap sack, his fingers barely touching it before his eyes flew open. “Do I want to know what it is? I can feel it through this. Something very dark and very ugly.”