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Immune(Rylee Adamson #2)(14) by Shannon Mayer

She shook her head, clacking her beak. “No, but I think we are being followed.”

I twisted around as best I could without letting go, my eyes widening at what I was seeing. Yup, we were being followed, but I had no idea why. Okay, sure, there were a few people who’d like to see me dropped from a hundred feet up, but not people that had the ability to rouse what I was seeing.

With a wingspan that matched Eve’s, but a sleeker, more predatory body, I stared into the unblinking eyes of a giant eagle. It was like a super-sized version of a bald eagle, every detail of it as clear as if it were sitting beside me. Beak opening, it screamed a challenge, the cry wrapping around us. Eve shuddered below me.

“That is not an ordinary eagle.”

“No shit! What is it?”

Again she shivered, her wing strokes faltering, and we slowed considerably. That was not what we needed right now. Again, I had to remind myself Eve was a child, and I was supposed to be looking after her.

“As soon as we’re out of its territory, it’ll bugger off. Just fly!” I hoped I was right about this. I knew birds were territorial, but who the hell knew how big the eagle’s territory was?

Her shivering eased, and her wings took up a steadier rhythm.

Maybe I could figure out what the big bird was up to. Reaching out with my Tracking ability, I touched on the emotions of the raptor behind us.

Blood lust filled me, a rage so intense and hot I felt it coil into my bones. Visions of viscera and broken flesh flittered in front of my eyes, the triumphant scream of the eagle filling my mind.

Shit.

As if sensing my intrusion, the eagle screamed, picking up speed.

“Eve—”

“I’m going to drop fast.” She called out.

Tucking her wings tight to her body, she dropped like a stone before she’d even finished speaking. My legs whipped out behind me and I fought to keep a hold of the Harpy with my arms, fingers slipping through her feathers like silk. With everything I had, I fought to stay on board, knowing there was no rescue if I fell. The world around us blurred and my eyes watered past the point of being able to see, the sudden plummet jerking my stomach into my throat. My arms cramped from the strain, the G-force slowly pulling me off Eve’s back. Damn it, this was not how I saw myself going out. Dropped from a Harpy’s back, not exactly how I’d planned to end things.

As suddenly as she’d dropped, Eve levelled out, skimming the desert floor. Flat out on her back, I crawled forward, pulled my legs back around her, and gripped her sides for all I was worth.

A quick search around us—no big-ass eagle to be seen. Letting out a slow breath I tucked my head against Eve’s neck. “We’re clear.”

“No.” She tipped her beak up, directing my eyes right above us. “We’re not.”

9

“Oh, f**k me,” I whispered. The eagle dropped fast and hard, its trajectory more than obvious. We were about to get slammed into the hard desert ground, our bodies crushed by talons and sheer force. There was nothing I could do but count each breath, hoping I would get one more.

Everything slowed, the air around us humming with the beat of two giant sets of wings. I couldn’t look away from the eagle, its eyes locked on mine with a hatred so intense I could feel it.

“HANG ON!” Eve screamed, rolling as the eagle reached for us. Gasping, I tightened my body around Eve’s. She rolled in the air, my head brushing against the sand, a thump jarred through Eve and into me, my eyes seeing the world upside down for a split second before coming upright once more.

Two strokes of her wings and Eve had us above the desert again. I looked over her shoulder to see the eagle sprawled out on the ground in a tangle of wings.

“What did you do?”

“I locked claws with him, and then used his momentum to fling him around and into the earth.” The pride in her voice was obvious, and I couldn’t help myself from whooping with excitement. Maybe having a Harpy around wasn’t such a bad thing.

“Eve, you’re AMAZING!” I pumped one fist into the air.

Letting out a screech of her own, she spiraled on an updraft. Her pride, pure and unadulterated, was written all over her face, eyes bright. “I did good?”

“You did better than good, you rocked his ass!” I never thought I’d be so happy to have a Harpy on my side. I gave her a thumbs up. “Eve, you are going to be one hell of a gal when you grow up.”

Her body fluffed up and she took a deep breath. “I learned that from my father, before he left us. I think he would be proud of me today.”

Lips pressed together, I fought the emotions surging up in me. I knew what it was to want to be daddy’s girl, to have your father proud of you.

“I think you’re right, Eve. He would be proud of you.” I paused and laid a hand on her back. “I’m proud of you.”

The glimmer of a tear shone in her eye as she turned her head away from me. “We’re almost back.”

Below us the Landing Pad came into view. Circling around the motel once, Eve brought us in slow, landing so softly I barely felt it. Sliding off her back, I turned to see O’Shea striding out of the motel, features twisted with anger. Yes, that was how I needed to deal with him. Balls to the wall, pissed off and ready to strangle me.

“Adamson! What. Do. You. Think. You’re. Doing?” He came to a stop just inches in front of me, our toes nearly touching.

Cocking one hip, placing a hand on it, I shrugged. “Just getting things done. I told you Doran wasn’t a guy you should be messing with. I meant it. He knocked Eve out within three minutes of us being there.”

O’Shea gave Eve a once over. “Yet, she’s fine.”

I pushed past him, calling over my shoulder. “Good job, Eve. I’m going to look into a harness, so we can practice once we get home.”

She danced on the spot, hopping from one foot to the other, beak clacking. At least she was happy.

Heavy footsteps followed me into the semi darkness of the motel—a hand grabbed my arm, spinning me around. Dark eyes stopped my mouth, the anger in them was expected, but not the concern. Not the worry.

“How can I help you, how can I keep you alive, if you won’t let me in? And why aren’t you freezing your ass off? Did he actually get the venom out of you?” His words ignited a strange mixture of emotions in me. Damn him.

“I am not your job, I’m not—”

“We’re in this together. Whether you like it or not, I think of you as my partner. Which means where you go, I go. No exceptions.” His grip loosened on me, and I rubbed my arm. I didn’t need him, had never needed him before.

Someone cleared their throat and we both looked up—Dox leaned against the bar. “How was Doran?”

I gave a sharp nod. “Same as last time, pain in the ass Daywalker. But he gave me this.” I held up the fire opal, and then hung up Dox’s long jacket. Heading over to the bar, I poured myself a glass of orange juice. A deep snore rattled from the far side of the room where a hammock had been set up in the corner. Alex lay in it, limbs dangling at strange angles of the edge. No doubt Dox had stuffed him full of food; it was the one sure-fire way to knock the werewolf out.

“Hitting the heavy stuff already?” Dox teased as I drank the cool liquid down.

“Shut up,” I grumbled. He knew I couldn’t handle stimulants; my body just wasn’t designed for things like high amounts of sugar or small amounts of alcohol.

O’Shea tapped the bar with his fingers as he moved to lean against the bar beside me. “Did you get what you needed?”

I rubbed the back of my neck. “First things first. Dox, why is there a giant eagle flying around?”

The ogre’s eyes widened and he stared at me as if I’d just sprouted two heads. “There isn’t.”

“Yes. There is. It attacked me and Eve on our way back.”

“Which,” O’Shea decided to point out, “wouldn’t have happened if we’d gone together in the SUV.”

Lips pursed in a thin line of anger, I fought the urge to shove him. “If we’d gone into its territory, even with a SUV, and it chose to pursue us, we’d be carried off and dropped in some large canyon, SUV and all.”

“Whoa, whoa. There are no giant eagles. That sort of stuff is . . .” Dox said , his eyes going distant for a split second. “Unless it is another of the tribal Guardians.”

This day was just getting better and better.

“Explain, please, what happened with Louisa,” I said, pulling up a barstool.

Dox clasped his overly large hands in front of him. “She showed up at my door looking like death warmed over. I barely recognized her to be honest. Her tribal Guardian was with her.” He lifted his eyes to mine, the strain around the edges highlighted by the shadows of the room. “He’s a big boy, about my size, but man, he cleaned my clock like he was taking out the trash, like my blows were nothing to him.”

I went to his side and touched his arm. “I need to know what we’re dealing with.”

The ogre slipped one arm over my shoulder. “I’ve never been in a fight where I knew I was going to lose. The Guardian hit me once, and I knew that no matter what I did, I was done.”

Son of a bitch, if Dox was scared, we were in more trouble than I’d thought.

“Do you think it was really Louisa? I mean, could it have been someone in disguise? You said you barely recognized her.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. But how would she have called forth a Guardian if it wasn’t her?”

Good point. I wracked my brain, but it was O’Shea who asked the smart question.

“Could she have been coerced, forced to do this?”

Both Dox and I just stood there, staring, the idea of someone forcing a Shaman to do anything hard to swallow. And yet . . .

“I never would have thought of it,” I said, fingers reaching for my sword handle. In my mind, I preferred the idea of Louisa manipulating us, like pieces on a chessboard. It was a far uglier idea that someone else controlled the powerful Shaman.