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Blind Salvage(Rylee Adamson #5)(4) by Shannon Mayer

I snorted and he lifted a hand to stall me.

“They were the only parents she recalled at that point. They’d made sure of it. And she saw Faris and his three brothers take on her parents. His brothers were killed, but he survived, barely, and finished the job, taking the Empress’ head and heart. Berget saw it all. She was fourteen at the time.”

I managed to speak around gut churning nausea. “That doesn’t explain everything. She knows me still. It’s not like her memories are all gone.”

Doran stepped closer to me, almost as if he would give me a hug. I didn’t step back, and he didn’t encircle me with his arms.

“When the Empress and Emperor died, they spilled their auras to her, giving her their abilities, their powers, the bonds they held over those that called them master, as well as their memories. She did not lose her own memories, but they are faint with the past staining them, and those older memories coating them. She is a child carrying the power of two ancient vampires and all that they know. She does not have the strength of mind to handle this, very few would. She is going mad. Slowly, but very surely.”

“And I suppose you want me to do something about it? Kill her and end her reign of madness?” Fuck, everyone thought I could be this supposed demon slayer or whatever the hell the prophecies were spouting. Why not be a slayer of psychotic vampires too? The thing was, a large part of me did want to save her, to bring back the little sister I so wanted to believe was buried inside. What if she could be separated from those memories and all that power? Could she possibly be brought back to some semblance of the Berget who was my sister?

He dipped his head so that we were cheek to cheek. Intimate, yet I wasn’t getting that ‘take me baby’ vibe from him. “No, this is information. Information you need so that if the chance comes, you don’t hold back. She is not your sister. What is left of her soul is … not gone, but missing. All that is left is what they were. If there is a way to free her, I do not know it.” His breath was cool against my skin as he breathed each word into me.

“Tyrants, that’s what lives inside her. Mad, power hungry tyrants who want to rule the world, both the humans and the supernaturals. That cannot happen.”

I closed my eyes, grief spilling up through me. You’d think that after all these years of hurting, of saying goodbye to her over and over in my head, that this moment would be easier. Yet it wasn’t. Because for a few brief weeks, I’d thought I’d be able to have my little sister back. That I could heal up some of the gaping wounds in my soul I’d pasted over with brash words and a hard exterior. It just wasn’t to be and the wounds haunting me cracked and bled with a pain I didn’t know how to stem as Doran’s words sunk in. The hope I’d clung to faded to a feeble whisper as it died inside of me.

His hands skimmed up my arms, fingers light against my damp bare skin. “I’m sorry, Rylee. I truly am.”

I just stood there, eyes closed, waiting for more. His hands slid off my arms as the distant rumble of thunder rolled toward us, bringing another storm.

Even with my eyes closed, I could tell we were getting close to our drop off. The road got rough, bumps and drops jarring me from any semblance of rest. My brain wouldn’t let go of what Doran had told me. He hadn’t answered all the questions I had, but I wasn’t ready to ask them yet either, so that was fine by me. Like what he knew of the Blood that both Berget and Faris wanted me to find for them to secure their leadership.

“Why didn’t we just have Will take us? He has a car that would fit us all.” Pamela’s voice pulled me out of my reverie.

I turned to her, an eyebrow arching up. “Really? You have to ask that?”

She blushed. Yeah, she just wanted one more glimpse of Will. “You don’t think they’d really fight, do you?”

The upside was she didn’t know why Will and Liam didn’t like each other. And I certainly wasn’t going to tell her that the man she had a crush on had a bit of a thing for me. No, that wouldn’t go over well with a teenage witch whose hormones were, on a good day, all over the map. So I fudged it.

“Alphas can rarely be in the same room together. It’s just the way they’re hardwired. They will end up fighting if they stay in close proximity. Just one more reason for us to go home.”

“Will could control himself; it’s Liam that can’t,” she said, her nose turning up with a snobbery that only came to her when she spoke about Will.

I snorted. Nothing Will ever did would be bad in her eyes. Nor would she see that he was pushing hard to get Liam to step away from me. Again, I wasn’t going to explain that part to her. “Right, whatever.”

The cabbie pulled off to the side of the road, where we’d asked to be dropped. Pretty much in the middle of nowhere. From here, the directions were straight forward. Follow the dirt path to the rundown castle at the end of the road. Easy peasy.

We stepped out of the car, grabbed our bags, and paid our fare. The cabbie turned his car around, and then headed back down the poorly kept road to the main thoroughfare. As the cab disappeared over a hump in the road, a rustle from the bushes turned us both around.

“Tell me you brought clothes.” Liam said, standing strategically behind a bush so that he didn’t flash Pamela. I reached into my bag and tossed him a shirt and pair of jeans, and the last pair of shoes I had in his size. With all his shifting, we were going through clothes like crazy.

He dressed and stepped out from around the bush, Alex right behind him. Tongue lolling out, he had a big grin on his misshapen face. I had no doubt that the run had been a blast for him.

“Have fun?”

“Yuppy doody. Boss is good boss.”

With that, we headed out. Liam led, Alex tucked in behind him, then Pamela, and then me.

The heavy brush on either side of us would make for a perfect ambush, which was not something I was interested in dealing with. Without a break in my stride, I pulled a sword from my back, and adjusted the bag of weapons so I would have an easy swing at anyone, or anything that might pop out to say ‘hello.’

With my luck, the chances were high we’d run into at least one nasty ugly.

Pamela glanced back at me, saw the sword, and lifted her hands to prep a spell. I didn’t stop her. The more ready we were, the less likely we were to get our asses tromped by something. No need for the Monday blues to kick us into next week if we could avoid it.

Alex trailed behind Liam like a well-trained dog, never once straying out in front of his alpha. Liam’s steps slowed and he turned his head to look into the bushes, as we slid down a small slope into a depression in the ground. Along the edges of the path the trees were bent, large branches snapped like twigs, and sap ran freely from the wounds. Whatever had caused the damage, it had been recent and on the far end of the ‘big ass’ scale.

“Something rather large has come this way.” Liam reached out and touched his fingers to the jagged edge of a tree, then closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath as he scented the air.

I tightened my grip on my sword and slowly lowered the bag of weapons. “Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Wait, how the hell can you smell ‘large’?”

“I don’t know. A lot of whatever came through here. Look around. That’s how I can tell.”

I pulled my other sword from my back and rolled it in my hand. “Alex, can you smell what it is?”

The werewolf stuck his nose to the ground and moved in an ever-widening circle, finally stopping about ten feet out in front of us, his eyes round with fear, as he whispered. “Big bugger.”

Obviously, he’d picked up on the local lingo. “What kind of big bugger?”

He mouthed the word, and I groaned. No. Fucking. Way.

Liam spun slowly. “Did he say what I think he said?”

I nodded. “Yup. He did.”

“Yuppy doody,” Alex said softly. “There be giants.”

Crouching over my bag, I opened it with a yank on the zipper and quickly geared up. Was it fun to run with all my weapons on? No, but running with my weapons on was a hell of a lot easier than running with a bulky bag. I handed out the few weapons I couldn’t strap onto my body. A short sword for Pamela, and Liam took the crossbow. Yes, I could have strapped it on, but if I needed speed, it would get in the way and Liam could handle the extra bulk better than I could. Finally, I pulled out the burlap-covered black demon book. Cold seeped through it and into my fingers. Liam took it from me and shoved it under his shirt, tucking it into this belt. “I’ll take it.”

I gave him a tight smile. The thing gave me the willies, but there was no way we could leave it behind.

Pamela’s fingers tightened on the handle of the short sword. “Are we going to have to fight a giant?”

“Hopefully not. They aren’t real bright and love to be destructive. They would make Blaz look neat and tidy.”

There was a twinge in the back of my head as Blaz, even as far away as he was, perked up as I said his name. I ignored him.

She swallowed hard. Liam shifted his shoulders, glanced at Pam, and then away into the forest. Yeah, he wasn’t real comfortable with the young witch yet, but we didn’t have time for worrying about who liked who the best at the moment.

Liam stared around us, touching the broken branches closest to him. “Why didn’t we feel the giant walking?”

Pamela answered for me. “I read that they move on the other side of the veil, that only when they move on this side of the veil can they be felt moving around, and then the humans think it’s just thunder.” She looked to me for confirmation. I nodded.

“She’s right. And they tend to be lazy, sleeping for days, sometimes weeks at a time. But when they wake up … .”

I stood and put both swords back into their sheaths. Liam frowned. “What about when they wake up?”

I gave him a tight smile. “Hungry. Like sharks on the prowl, they’ll eat anything, friend or foe, alive, dead, rotting. Whatever. If it’s even remotely edible, they’ll scoop it up and eat it. Then they crash again.”