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Blood of the Lost(Rylee Adamson #10)(13) by Shannon Mayer

With everything I had, I tapped into all the good in my life, the love I had for my daughter and Liam, for Alex and Pamela, Eve, and maybe even Faris. The emotions flowed through me, calming the rage. In my hands, my sword began to glow, as if lit from within. I didn’t think about this new development, couldn’t; there was no time.

“Demon, go back to your home.”

I drove the sword into his open mouth, only stopping when the hilt was buried in his throat. He convulsed around my blade, his three tongues dancing wildly in the air, like demented cheerleaders for a dying monster.

With a quick twist of the handle, I sliced through him and then pulled my sword out. A waft of rotting meat and sulfur spewed from his mouth, as if a septic main had broken inside him. The green mucus I’d seen on Lark, Peta, and Alex were next, then blood—red and black—flowed like a river around us. I looked down at my arms and legs.

The acid burns were gone, though my clothes were eaten to shit. Alex trotted toward me, the pustules gone and the mucus left on his skin already dried. Lark strode toward me, as though she wasn’t covered in left over pox. “Rylee, are you incapable of following anyone else? Should I give up now?”

I glared at her. “Maybe you should remember who broke you out of the fucking oubliette.”

Her eyes narrowed and she stepped close to me, using her height to her advantage. Peta shrunk back to her housecat form and leapt onto Lark’s shoulders, her green eyes worried.

“Maybe you should remember we’re trying to keep you alive,” Lark snapped and Peta shook her head.

Well, now was as good a time as any to have this out with her. “Oh, I’m sorry. Did you become a demon slayer in the last ten minutes?”

She shook her head ever so slightly. “We were going to hold him down so you could finish him off, remember?”

“And where were you?”

Her shoulders tightened. “Sick, but we were still fighting for you. Pamela healed Alex and me enough to get our asses here. For you.”

“Stop trying to guilt trip me, Lark.”

She grabbed my arms, surprising me. With a hard shake, she snapped my head back and forth, and Peta mewed as though that would stop her master. “You little idiot, everything we are doing is to get you to the end in one piece. I don’t want this world run by Orion any more than you do, so why won’t you damn well let me help?”

I rubbed the back of my neck, feeling the strain of muscles there too. That damn bump from earlier was bigger and I picked at it. A flash of heat shot through me and I snapped my hand away.

A wild rush of anger slid over me as I yanked my two swords out, pointing both at her. “Because you don’t know shit, Lark! Who the fuck do you think you are anyway?”

Her eyes widened and she slowly raised her spear as I circled around her. “Rylee, what are you doing? We’re on the same damn side.”

Swiveling my swords, I loosened my wrists. “Are we? You jumped, distracted me from killing the demon. I don’t think we are on the same fucking side.” Were we? No, Lark was trying to stop me. Hurt me.

Control me.

Her eyes narrowed. “This doesn’t sound like you.”

I swung a sword as Alex slid between us, his hands up and his big eyes begging. “Rylee, stop. This is wrong.”

With only a hairsbreadth of room, I missed him. But he stayed there on the ground in front of me, unblinking. Trusting I wouldn’t hurt him.

The back of my neck tingled and itched, and I put a hand to it, dropping my sword. It hit the ground with a clatter that seemed to break the tension. Alex shimmied forward, and put his face close to mine. “You okay, boss?”

A lump in my throat seemed to freeze my ability to talk, so I just nodded.

“Maybe we should all get inside then,” he said, putting a hand to my elbow as if I were a feeble old woman. I jerked away from him.

“Don’t” was all I said. They stared at me, their eyes ranging from pity to fear. Neither of those emotions were ones I wanted to deal with; especially not in other people.

Lark turned away first. “Let’s get new clothes and get a move on.”

I watched her as she strode away, her leather vest and pants eaten through from the flinging acid. Peta dropped from her shoulder and trotted ahead of her, the white tip of her gray tail flicking back and forth rapidly. The shift in Lark’s attitude happened so swiftly I struggled to follow.

I had a feeling perhaps Peta influenced it. The cat did seem to know when she was needed.

And it had to be obvious even to the cat that Lark had been egging me on.

Right?

A hair-raising screech turned me around. Eve and Marco were slowly getting up. Whatever Pestilence had done to them had faded. Beside me, Alex shifted—albeit slowly—into his human form. The gangly teenager was buck-naked but didn’t seem overly bothered by it.

Pamela on the other hand as she walked toward us turned bright red and spun around. “Come on, Lark is right. We need to get clothes.”

I snatched up my sword, sheathed both. Limping a little, my right hip sore from something or other during the fight with Pestilence, I headed toward the box store.

“Think they have Twinkies in there? I’m starving.” Alex rubbed his hands together and gave me a sideways wink.

“Twinkies, but no rabbits.”

He grimaced and shook his head. “I think I’m done with rabbits for a while.”

We caught up to Pamela and I slung an arm around her shoulders guiding her so she was on the side opposite of Alex.