Blind Salvage(Rylee Adamson #5)(6) by Shannon Mayer
Going to one knee, he crooked his finger at Pamela. Her blue eyes were full of distrust, but she drew close and put herself behind him. Her fear lay heavy on the air, sweet and cloying, and he drew it deep into his lungs, the wolf in him waking up.
Bite her. Break her neck. Taste her blood.
She hopped onto his back and he stood, grasping her legs with his hands, tight, but not crushingly so. Every scrap of control he had was going into not throwing the kid from his back and ripping her apart. Breathing slow and even, he focused on Rylee.
She watched them, her tri-colored eyes taking it all in. He gave her a small nod. There was no doubt that she could read him and see just how difficult this was for him. He could see her thoughts before she spoke them, but she could do the same to him.
With a sharp movement, she turned her back on them. In a way, it was a compliment. Rylee trusted him to take care of Pamela. Trusted him to control himself and his wolf.
“Here we go. Alex and I will lead, Liam you and Pamela stick close on our heels. Pamela don’t use any spells unless we’re in serious trouble. Got it?” Rylee pointed at each of them as she spoke.
He could feel Pamela bob her head. “Yes, I’ve got it.”
Rylee took the point position, Alex tight against her legs.
Liam adjusted his weight, tightening his hands on Pamela’s jean-clad legs. “Ready?” He asked over his shoulder.
Much as he hated to admit Rylee was right, there was no other way. The castle was on open ground, without a single twig or rock to hide behind. They were just going to have to run like hell and hope that they could at least make it past the giant.
Rylee broke from cover at full speed, Alex all but glued to her side. With a few long strides, Liam had caught up to Rylee and Alex. Pamela’s fingers gripped his shoulders. “They’ve seen us already.”
Damn, this was about to get ugly. He lifted his eyes to the battlements.
The creatures roaming the castle howled and cheered, as they pointed at the foursome. Worse, the creatures pelted the sleeping giant with large rocks, bringing him to life.
The giant gave a low rumble and rolled from his side to his belly, shaking the earth. Rylee pushed harder, picked up speed, but he knew it wouldn’t be enough. Alex let out a yelp as the first arrow hit the ground right in front of him, far too close for comfort.
“Pamela,” Rylee called out and Pamela took her hands from Liam’s shoulders.
His spine itched as she called up a spell, and the wolf in him rolled upward, struggling to take control. A snarl escaped his lips and the first tingle of a shift crawled along his spine.
Let me out.
His breath came in a hard gasp as he fought the wolf for control.
A fireball flew from Pamela’s fingers and slammed into the first row of creatures along the top of the castle walkway. Bodies exploded, some landing on the giant who was only just now getting to his knees. The bodies that rained down on him didn’t seem to faze him. No, he reached down and grabbed half of a body from the ground and put it in his mouth, broken teeth digging into the still-twitching creature. The sound of his chewing was audible, even a half mile away, the snap of bones echoing across the open expanse of ground. The wolf in him retreated. If they were going to survive this, they would have to work together.
The giant continued to pick at the bodies strewn about his feet, not yet seeing Rylee and Alex as they sprinted closer. Another volley of arrows came their way, and Alex let out another yelp, this one legitimate. A red-fletched arrow protruded from his shoulder, blood dripping from the feathers. Without breaking stride, Rylee reached down and yanked it out. Alex yipped and Liam growled at him. Right now they had to get past the damn giant; once they did that, Alex could whine all he wanted.
Pamela threw another couple of fireballs, which did two things. One, it took out another huge grouping of the creatures that by now were clearly visible—yet still unrecognizable—on the castle ramparts.
Two, her fireballs had drawn the attention of the giant.
Towering over them, he turned and gave out a gleeful cheer, clapping his hands together and stamping his feet as he saw them.
A garble of words poured from his mouth, along with a stream of saliva as he bent at the waist and scooped Rylee and Alex up in one big, dirty hand.
Liam skidded to a stop, his heart pounding out of control. This was not happening, he couldn’t lose her now.
Liam screamed my name as the giant’s hand closed around us. Ignoring Liam was hard, but I had to. I had to focus. Before the log-sized fingers curled tight on me, I yanked my swords free and slashed upward with them, cutting through the giant’s fingers. Two fell off; two others were left hanging by tendons and ligaments, blood spurting out around us.
Squealing like a two-story stuck pig, the giant dropped us. Falling, I realized—belatedly—that we were a hell of a lot higher up than I’d thought. I hit the ground with a solid thud, and the crack of my ribs filled my ears as I slammed into a barely protruding rock. That was going to leave a mark. Alex rolled across the ground beside me, snarling up at the giant.
“Stinky nasty bugger. No touching Ryleeeeeeeee!”
Hands jerked me to my feet. “Rylee?” Liam was trying to help; I know he was. But I couldn’t breathe, and pain shot through my middle, a band of red-hot knives jabbing into me with each tiny bit of movement. I forced myself to shove him away, to stand on my own. If he knew how badly I was hurt, he’d try to carry me too.
“Go. We have to go,” I managed to gasp out.
Far too slowly for my taste, Liam led now, Alex limped along beside me, and somewhere in the next ten steps I found the ability to breathe again. Broken ribs were a bitch at any time, but when trying to outrun a massively hungry and fingerless peeved giant—well, let’s just say I could have done without.
The slam of the giant’s foot into the ground scooted us forward faster yet, and my ribs protested yet again, stealing my ability to breathe. We were just twenty feet from the open arch of the castle entrance way. Pamela pushed herself off Liam’s back and turned to face the giant. The look on her face was one I was beginning to know all too well.
Eyes narrowed, chin tipped up, she lifted her hands and flung them toward the giant. Two fireballs erupted from her fingertips, hitting the giant in the chest.
Damn, I wish I’d thought about that … nope, never mind. The giant patted the fire out, almost calmly, and then snarled at us. His jagged teeth had hunks of flesh and armor clinging to them, and from between them protruded a thick, long tongue that he used to clean his own face with in single lick.
“Fuck, that is nasty,” I spit out, along with a gob of blood. “Move it, Pam. Your fireballs are just pissing him off. Just get inside. I don’t think he can follow.”
“What? Why not?”
“Giants aren’t real smart and as soon as we’re out of sight, we’re out of mind.”
Gods, I hoped that my memory was right. Grabbing her by the arm, I ran as fast as my labored breathing would allow into what I hoped would be the safety of the castle.
Right, I’d forgotten for a moment about the creatures we’d not been able to identify, a part of me hoping Pamela had taken them all out.
The creatures that had been firing on us were not trolls or ogres.
They were gods-be-damned big ass red caps. I did a fast count. There were at least twenty red caps. Two arms, two legs, built like a man, but their faces looked as if they had been smashed with a shovel, flat with just slits for noses and no lips to cover their blocky square teeth. Each of them was close to seven feet tall, carried a wicked iron pike, had heavy iron boots, and then there was their namesake. On each of their heads was a cap made of some sort of viscera, blood from the organ poured down the sides of their heads, and stained their skin a rusty brown.
“We can’t outrun them,” I said, as I slowed to a stop.
Liam grabbed my arm. “Yes, we can—”
“No, we can’t,” I snapped. “They can’t be outrun, not on their own turf, at least.”
The red caps started pounding the butt of their pikes into the ground at their feet, each thump bringing them a step closer. They had ringed us. From what I knew of them, which wasn’t a lot, we were in for a fight. Trained warriors who bathed themselves in the blood of their victims. Yeah, not really how I wanted to start my week. Freaking stupid Mondays.
“Pamela, to my back.” Thank the gods I’d been training her. She responded without question, pressing her back into mine. Alex tucked his butt in next to mine.
Liam didn’t question, just slid his back against ours.
“Head shots, people,” I said, my words calmer than I felt. Twenty red caps was no small feat to take on at the best of times.
As if in response, as I steadied my stance, something shifted inside of me, and one of my ribs pressed against my right lung. Shit, this was about to get tough.
Their pikes still thumping into the ground, the red caps were twenty feet away in all their blood and viscera glory. This close they looked like Dox on steroids, all muscle and small beady black eyes, bloodstained skin, with armor stretched taut over their bodies. My guts churned; injured, I was going to be more of a liability than a help in this particular situation. As if to drive the point home, pain rippled sharp and intense through my chest.
Four red caps engaged us, and I spun my swords out, crisscrossing them to catch the downward blow of a pike. The red cap forced me to my knees, the stone biting through my jeans. Alex leapt forward, snagging the red cap’s belt and yanking him off balance.
The red cap spun toward Alex, giving me his back. Thinking I was the weaker of the two of us. Perfect. He snapped his pike back in order to drive it into Alex’s side, but I beat him to the punch.
I drove my sword through the base of his neck, then yanked the blade to the left, beheading the big f**ker before he could complete his swing.
“Good job, Alex.”
Alex blew a raspberry at the red cap. “Bloody stupid messy bugger.”
Yeah, he’d definitely picked up the local lingo.