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Blood of the Lost(Rylee Adamson #10)(18) by Shannon Mayer

He shook his head. “The emotions are your own. I only opened the floodgates. When you touched me, on your neck, the venom in me surges. A natural defense I have no control over. I apologize that it caused you grief.”

I slapped a hand to the back of my neck. “You’re the reason I attacked Lark.”

“Yes.”

“And the reason I was so afraid.”

“Yes. As I said, the venom magnifies that which is already there.”

“Then why the hell was I myself sometimes? Why have I not been a fucking lunatic the whole time?” I stared hard at him, but he smiled at me.

“Love. You love those you are with and it is the only true antidote for my venom. It breaks through the poison.” He clasped his hands in front of his chest. “As to the edge of death . . . that will not change until I am no longer a part of you. But for now I hold your body in a stasis. You will not die unless I wish it.”

I put my hands on my hips, “And you don’t wish it because you hate Orion?”

His nose wrinkled up like he’d smelled something bad. “Because the world of demons is not meant to become a part of the human world, or the supernatural, for that matter. We are separate for a purpose.” Moloch shook his head slowly. “Orion is a fool. The demon prophecies were written by someone who wanted our two worlds to merge, and so with that goal, she wrote her prophecies. She chose the name ‘Orion’ because it is a common name in the demon realm.”

I raised an eyebrow at him and he laughed.

“Orion is creating these events to follow what is written, because he believes. That is the hidden truth of prophecy, Tracker. You can make it happen if you have enough faith. He believes and so, he is changing the world accordingly.”

“Prophecies have a funny way of turning out to be truth in my world,” I said.

Moloch lifted one hand, a single finger pointing to the sky. “You have your own set of prophecies that say you will defeat him. So perhaps the key is only that your belief must be stronger than his.”

Deep words, and ones I wished were true. More likely I needed an army that would be able to wipe the demons out; something I did not have. Unless . . . .

“How many demons support you?” I realized if there were enough demons that would go against Orion, we might actually have a chance against him.

“A few hundred. But we will be there, and we will fight at your side, Tracker.” He held out his hand. Slowly, I reached across to him and took his gnarled fingers in my own. Papery dry and soft, his skin felt as though I touched not flesh, but the peeling bark of a tree trunk.

“Moloch, did Orion send you to me?”

A laugh burst out of him as he let my hand go. “Yes, he believes I will bring you to your knees. Which I could.” His eyes twinkled at me. “Look for this mark.” He turned his head to the side and what looked like a faded scar was imprinted on his right cheek. Two parallel vertical lines with a single slash intersecting them. “This is the mark of those who oppose Orion and his plans.”

“Are you going to send me back now?”

“Yes, and I will leave you. And if you don’t mind, try to make sure your friends don’t kill me in my wormy form. I realize it isn’t pretty, but it is my own.”

I stepped back from him, then paused. “Wait. I have a question.”

He bobbed his head.

This was dicey, asking what I needed to ask, it would tip my hand. But if anyone would know if it were possible, I had a feeling it would be Moloch. It wasn’t like I was about to meet another demon I could even partially trust. Still, I didn’t want to throw caution to the wind. I revised my question a split second before I spit it out. “Orion bound the witch, Milly, to him fully, didn’t he? He could sense her, and she could sense him?”

Moloch gave a start. “Yes, he did. Demons love keeping tabs on their pets to make life the worst hell they could. Does that answer help you?”

I nodded. “Yes, thank you.”

The demon in front of me clasped his hands in front of his body, his red eyes boring into mine with an intensity of a razor-sharp blade cutting through me, peeling me open to the world. And then they widened ever so slightly. “Ah, I see what you are about. Dangerous what you would try, but . . . it may work. You are true to your heritage and the strength your people carried. It is an honor to meet you . . . Rylee of the Blood.”

A chill swept through me as he gave me a slow, painful bow, and then the wind picked up, slashing my face with sand particles, forcing my eyes closed.

“She’s moving.”

“Mother goddess, she’s breathing! What happened?”

The voices of those I loved most in the world surrounded me as I came back to myself. “I went for a little walk.” I croaked out the words as if I truly had been in a desert. “Can I get water?”

“I’m on it, boss.” Alex scrambled away, the sound of displays knocked over echoed in the store. Peta lay across my legs in her snow leopard form, her warmth curling through me and her green eyes full of worry. I ran a hand over her head.

“I’m okay.”

Liam held me to him, my back to his chest. “Rylee, what in the hell happened?”

I put a hand to my neck and the bump shifted again, and I jerked out of Liam’s arms, and out from under Peta, to crawl a few feet away from them.

“Don’t touch me and don’t touch what’s about to come out of my neck,” I said. The sound and feel of the back of my neck ripping open sent a gasp through not only me, but everyone else as well.