Blood of the Lost(Rylee Adamson #10)(16) by Shannon Mayer
I rubbed a hand over my face. “Yeah, you aren’t the first Tracker I’ve met. You all tend to be like that from what I understand. It’s the Spirit Elemental in you, it makes me unpredictable too. Though to a lesser degree.” I smiled to soften the words. She laughed and a little of the tension between us dissipated.
“Somehow I doubt that. If we’re related, you probably have more than your fair share of a temper too.”
Peta snickered softly at my feet. “That’s an understatement.”
I ignored my familiar. “Yes, but I’ve learned to control it.” Which I had for the most part. Occasionally, it still flared. My guts twisted with the thought of seeing my family after being locked away for so many years and what that would do to my careful control. Likely break it into a million pieces of pissed off.
The sounds of clothing being pushed aside and a stealthy pair of feet made me step back. Liam stepped out from behind one of the racks. I’d never known him separately from the vampire, but I could only imagine the struggle of choosing between the two men. I snorted softly to myself. Who was I kidding? I was still trying to choose between two men, and was no closer to making a decision after years in banishment and the oubliette to think about it.
I touched Rylee on the arm. “If I can give you a suggestion?”
“If you have to.”
“Both of those men are offering you their hearts. Take them. I don’t believe love can be wrong, my friend.” I stepped back and gave Liam a quick nod before turning my back on them. For whatever time we had here in this quiet pause after the battle, they needed to talk.
I had a feeling we weren’t going to get many more of these quiet spells.
“Good advice you gave her,” Peta said.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one thinking about the pause in our journey since I found Cactus standing at the rack of belts, his fingers plucking through them like loose harp strings. “I heard what you said to her, about love.”
I blew out a breath and picked a belt for myself. “I believe it’s true.”
“I love you, Lark. You know that.”
“And I love you too. But I also love Ash—”
“Don’t remind me.” He grunted. “I don’t know if he and I can share like those two over there.”
I looked over my shoulder at the bowed head of Liam and the upturned face of Rylee as they spoke. “They wouldn’t be doing things this way if they didn’t have to, Cactus. What would you have done if I’d taken the throne? I could have married you and had a man on the side. Loving you both, pretending when I was with one that the other didn’t matter, which would be a lie. What would you have me do?”
“I would have you pick me,” he said softly, his green eyes as vulnerable as I’d ever seen them. “I would have you tell me you love me best and that he was just a phase.”
I blew out a breath and let him tug me to him. His arms wrapped around my body felt so right, so good. And in that moment, I was able to forget I’d been stuffed away like garbage for years. I was able to forget the one other man I loved was missing, and maybe dead.
I was able to forget I was supposed to be the end of the Elemental world.
But of all those things, the one I wanted to forget and couldn’t, was when the time came, Rylee’s life would be in my hands. It would be up to me and my strength whether she lived or died in the battle against Orion.
A shudder slid through me and I clung to Cactus as I hadn’t done since we were children hiding in the darkness of the forest on a moonless night. Peta leapt up to my shoulder and butted her head against both of us, purring softly.
“You can do this,” he whispered into my hair. “You are the best of our world because you will do what no one else would even dream of. You know, even now the four families of elementals cower in their homes and cover their ears to the death cries of the humans. You will change that, Lark.”
I pulled back from him and kissed him softly before letting go completely. “That’s what I’m afraid of, Cactus.”
LARK’S WORDS HOVERED in the air between them. He reached out and brushed a strand of Rylee’s long hair behind her ear. “Rylee.”
“Liam, what if I fall in love with Faris?” she blurted the question, and by the smell of fear on her, he knew it was already happening.
He expected Faris to crow his victory, but again, the vampire surprised him. There was a softening and Faris stepped forward without pushing Liam back.
“I think it will happen, eventually, when there is no longer two, just one.” His voice waivered as if both of them spoke at the same time.
Liam swallowed hard, and felt Faris do the same.
Rylee reached up. “I’m not surviving this, so I don’t know why I bother to worry about you two.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. You aren’t going to fail; you don’t have it in you.” He couldn’t help but wrap his hands around hers and tug her closer. Her head still fit under his chin, the same as it had in his old body. She wrapped her arms around him and took a deep breath.
“Maybe, I won’t fail. I have to finish Orion and close the Veil. I believe that much, even if I don’t have a gods-be-damned plan. Lark said it and she’s right. A sacrifice is expected of me.” She looked up at him and her eyes filled with tears. He wiped them away and kissed the trail of tears down her cheeks. Faris held Liam’s tongue, keeping them quiet. Liam would have jumped in and tried to fix it right away, but the vampire seemed to know a bit more about women than he initially let on.