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Blind Salvage(Rylee Adamson #5)(8) by Shannon Mayer

Liam and Dox carried Pamela and me out to Dox’s oversized bright red pickup truck. The back seat was big enough for a twin bed and had leather seats that matched the exterior paint, which would at least make for an easy cleanup. Pamela came around as Liam laid her on the seat. She sat up fast, her eyes wide and hands up in prep for a spell, aiming straight for Liam. I reached over and grabbed her hands, my wayward rib wriggling closer to my heart.

“Stop,” I gasped out, blood trickling down the edge of my mouth. Crap, if she let loose on Liam, there was no guarantee I could convince him not to take her out.

There was a split second where I wasn’t sure she heard me, and then she lowered her hands. “Sorry, I thought we were still in the castle.” She turned to look at me. A large gash over her right eye seemed to be the cause of all the blood. Dox leaned in and pressed a wad of cloth against her wound.

He introduced himself to her, and when he stepped out to get into the drivers side, her eyes widened even more.

“I’ve never met an ogre.”

I didn’t answer her, just focused on sitting still. Liam slid into the passenger side of the truck and the engine choked, then died.

Just brilliant. What else could go wrong?

“Alex and I will run, we’ll meet you there,” Liam said, and before I could protest, he’d stepped out of the truck and slammed the door. Dox turned the key in the ignition and the engine rolled over without a hiccup.

Dox didn’t take us back to his place, but to Louisa’s. He pulled in as the sun climbed the rest of the way up over the edge of the horizon. Her house, built in a classic southwest style, hadn’t changed since we’d last been there. Dox parked the truck, and then slid out, reaching for Pamela first. She turned her head to me, and I gave her a nod. If I couldn’t trust her with Dox, I couldn’t trust her with anyone.

Louisa met Dox on the front porch and ran her hand over Pamela’s head, then pointed into the house. Without waiting for the ogre to come and get me, she instead climbed into the back seat of the truck beside me.

Her hair was cropped short, still growing back after her time spent with a Daywalker who’d used her as bait for me.

“Rylee, do you want to call in your favor to me?”

“Heal us both,” I said, the rib digging in hard. I wanted to cough, fought the urge and held my breath against it.

She put her hands to my ribcage, clucking her tongue as her fingers prodded at me. “The girl I can heal; you are going to need more help than I can give. I will need to call in another Shaman.”

“Do it.” They all owed me a favor, so if I had to cash in two favors to save both our lives, I would do it.

Would I heal on my own, without her help? Possibly. But with my rib so far out of place, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure. Even supernaturals healed wrong if the bones were broken too badly, or too displaced. Made for some seriously ugly and misshaped bodies.

She left me there, her beaded necklace and bracelets jangling with each step as she walked away. I leaned my head back. Right there, in that position, I didn’t hurt too badly. The pain still hummed under my skin, but with my eyes closed, I could believe that I was suffering from nothing more than a bad fall.

A whisper of wolf musk curled into the truck and then Liam was there, staring up at me. He didn’t shift back into human form, which worried me. I reached out to him.

“Liam.”

He whined and licked my fingers, shaking his head afterward. Louisa came out, and shooed him away as if he were a wayward mutt, and then she stilled, her eyes widening as she took him in. “I’d heard a rumor that a great wolf had been born. But I didn’t truly believe it.”

“Later,” I whispered.

She pointed at me. “You stay there. We aren’t moving you again; the rib is too close to your heart. But you knew that, didn’t you?” Her shrewd eyes snared mine, and I couldn’t look away. I also couldn’t get enough breath to answer her so I just nodded.

“And you continued on anyway?” Her hands were working fast now, a sharp knife in one as she cut away my shirt.

I wanted to slap her hands away, but even if I could have lifted my arms, I knew she was helping me.

She peeled off my shirt and cut through my sports bra to reveal not only my shattered rib cage, which had some really interesting points pushing up against my skin from the inside, but the black snowflake that had been permanently etched into my breast bone.

“Well, if you can survive a Hoarfrost demon, you can survive this,” she said. The cool air ghosted across my skin and an involuntary shiver grabbed me. Locking my jaw, I could only just stop myself from arching my back against the pain. Louisa shouted for Dox, and the rib shifted, slicing through what was left of my lung—and my world went black.

He was inside the Shaman’s house, shifting, when Louisa shouted for Dox. The fear in her voice reverberated through him. With a growl, he forced his body to hurry. Panting, the last of the shift ripped through him and he stood, grabbed a blanket off the couch and tied it around his body as he ran out the door.

Dox blocked his way on one side, and Louisa blocked his way on the other. Intellectually, he knew that there was nothing he could do to help, but his instincts were to push them aside, bare his teeth, and chase them away from Rylee. To protect her at all costs. From there, he could smell her blood, and it sent him to the edge of his control.

“What can I do?”

“Go get some hot water going on the stove. And stay in the house. There are extra clothes in the guest room.” Louisa’s eyes flicked up to his, briefly, and he saw the command in them. His spine stiffened, and a growl slipped past his lips.

Dox smoothed things over. “Another Shaman is coming, you need to get some clothes on and have that hot water ready for her.”

Frustration coursed through him. Yet again, there was nothing he could do, not really. He knew a make-work job when he was handed one. Shit, Alex could have gotten the water hot—where the hell was the submissive werewolf anyway?

Liam jogged into the house, grabbed some sweat pants and a shirt from the guest room, and yanked them on. He had to stop shifting while still wearing his clothes.

There were two pots of water already on the stove, and all he had to do was turn the heat on. Two clicks later, there was nothing else he could do but wait. And pace.

Not until he’d passed the couch twice did his eyes really flick over it, showing him what his nose already knew if he’d been paying attention. Pamela watched him warily, covered to her chin with a blanket the same color as the couch. Alex was curled up on her feet, his big eyes brimming with tears.

“Rylee die?”

Liam let out a growl. “No. They’re going to save her.” He had to believe it. There was no room for doubt in his head or he’d lose it completely, the wolf in him already making it hard to stay calm. Surely, they wouldn’t be brought back together just so he could watch her die. He closed his eyes, fought the panic that gripped him, forced it down as he would the wolf in him. Opening his eyes, he stared at the witch in surprise.

Pamela held a hand out to him. He clenched his jaw and ignored her offer of comfort. He wouldn’t hurt her, would help her survive, would even carry her if he had to, but he didn’t have to be her friend. The wolf in him agreed. Pamela was a part of their pack, but on the outskirts as far as he was concerned. She could never be fully trusted, not like he’d like to. Again, he paced the living room, his bare feet slapping against the floor with each step he took. The whole place smelled like a hospital: astringents, bandages, sterilization. There was almost no smell of a home that was lived in.

The witch sat up, struggled to get her legs out from under Alex’s weight. “The Shaman knew we were coming. There were bandages and everything already laid out for me and when they put me on the couch … .”

Liam paused in his pacing long enough to stare down at her. “What happened?”

She bit her lower lip. “They already knew that it was Rylee that had been hurt. The Shaman muttered under breath, ‘That’s what you get for tangling with a giant’. I think she didn’t know I could hear her.”

He rocked back on his heels. “How the hell did they know?”

The sound of footsteps brought him around to see a grim-faced Dox.

“Crystal, the other Shaman, is here helping Louisa.”

Pamela beat Liam to the question burning through his mind. “Is Rylee going to be okay?”

Dox gave a slow nod. “I think so. They’re shifting the rib back in place. Once it’s there, then she should heal up.”

“How are they shifting it back in place?” Liam asked, a cold pulse of dread thrumming through him.

Dox swallowed hard, the glint of his lip ring catching the light. “They had to cut her open. I left before—”

Without another thought Liam bolted for the door, but Dox caught him around the waist and threw him backward.

Snarling, Liam charged forward again, but he hadn’t taken two steps, and then he couldn’t move at all. Not even his head. A spell held him fast, took away his freedom. Just like before. Sweat and fear slid through him, which only enraged his wolf.

“I’m sorry, Liam. You have to stay here,” Pamela said, but all he heard was Milly’s voice, her taunting words, and the feel of the collar around his neck.

No, Pamela would never be trusted. And if she wasn’t careful, that lack of trust would bring them head to head.

And just like the other witches he’d dealt with, she’d lose.

Chapter 5

THE THING WITH being unconscious is that your mind can play tricks on you. Nasty ones, as usually is my case.

I could have sworn that there were hands inside of me, moving bits and pieces around. I didn’t feel pain, just pressure and soft voices, then the sound of my skin popping, as a needle and thread sewed me up in layers. But how could that all be when we were in London, at Jack’s place … no, there had been a giant and red caps. The memories slid through me as the last stitch tightened, pulling my wound together. I lay there on my back in the back seat of Dox’s truck, my body slick with sweat and blood, the smell of whatever herbs and poultices the Shamans had used were heavy in the air and gave me a pleasant, tingling numbness all over.