Immune(Rylee Adamson #2)(15) by Shannon Mayer
Dox shook his head. “Me either. Not a Shaman of her stature. But it might make sense.”
It was O’Shea who turned the conversation back to me. “What did Doran say?”
“I need Louisa and the other Shamans, along with Doran and a few other details, to get the venom out of me. Then we’re good to go.”
“What few other—”
The two men—and I use that term loosely, considering one of them was an ogre—talked over one another.
An irritated sigh left me, and I quickly filled Dox in on the demon, the venom, and the problem with the cold. Then, for the next fifteen minutes, we went over the details of Dox’s problem. Gods be damned, as if one issue at a time wasn’t enough. Louisa hadn’t been back, and hadn’t been seen since her visit to Dox. The idea that she was being coerced was the only thing that we could agree on. Because even though she could be manipulative—the way of all Shamans—I had a hard time seeing her use that method on Dox. She had always been quite fond of the ogre, often visiting him for coffee and to gossip about the local shenanigans.
All of which only made this situation stranger.
Tentatively, while Dox and O’Shea rehashed what we knew, I closed my eyes and reached out with my mind to Track Louisa. What I felt though, was, for lack of a better term, off. It was almost like she was on the other side of the Veil, but not quite. The energy of her life force hummed steadily, and the soft brush of her emotions was there, but they were muted. I was pretty sure I could find her, turning to the south facing windows, knowing that was the direction she was in. Okay, but what was this haze over her? It was like a blanket of thick fog that left you knowing there was a person in front of you, but you were unable to see them clearly.
“Something’s blocking me from her,” I said. “And she isn’t on the other side of the Veil. It feels like she’s trying to muffle her threads, her life force, as if she doesn’t want to be found.”
The two guys stopped talking, Dox lifted his eyebrows and O’Shea just watched me. Shifting on my feet, I worried my bottom lip with my teeth. With all that was going on, I was reluctant to make a snap decision, unusual as it was for me.
“Listen, I want to go out to her place, it’s in the direction I’m feeling the pull from anyway. Maybe we can find something to help us.”
O’Shea laughed. “You mean, like Louisa?”
I smiled over at him. “Yeah, if things are that simple.” Which with my life, they rarely were.
Alex snorted in his sleep, barked, and woke himself up with a start. With a grunt, he tried to flip himself out of the hammock, and ended up sprawled on the floor.
“I think we should leave him here,” O’Shea said, touching my arm. I watched Alex’s sleepy face turn to one of irritation, his amber eyes tracking O’Shea’s hand as it trailed down my arm. “Until you do something about this, he’s going to be a problem.” O’Shea had curved his body around mine, with each breath touching more of me. Alex climbed to all fours, fur standing at attention, a low growl rumbling in his throat.
It was Dox who broke the tension. “You know why he’s doing this, don’t you?”
I shook my head, and put a hand on O’Shea’s chest, creating some distance between us. “I sure as hell wish I did.”
“You are his pack leader, Rylee. And I doubt he’s ever had any other competition for your affection. Am I right?” Dox flushed, his skin going a light purple shade.
“Fuck, but he’s submissive! He shouldn’t be challenging anyone.” I threw my hands into the air.
Dox knocked his big knuckles on the counter. “But O’Shea isn’t a werewolf, so he’s more like prey than another predator. Easy pickings when it comes to keeping his pack intact. Even a submissive wolf will fight for their pack leader. Probably just comes and goes with him, doesn’t it? One minute he’s submissive, the next aggressive?”
I nodded. Dox’s lips curled up on one side. “I’d bet a case of beer he’s struggling with it. He’s a submissive of course, but wants to protect you. It will make him unpredictable at best until there is a definitive laying down of the law.”
Gods be damned, I glanced over at the werewolf who continued to stalk towards us, body and hair stiff.
“Alex, knock it off.” He froze in mid stride, his hackles slowly going down, and I turned to Dox. “Any other particular tidbits you’d like to share? Like how to get him to stop this?”
“Stop touching the agent.”
It was my turn to flush, and then stammer. “It’s not me!” Flustered beyond belief, I pointed at Alex. “You stay here with Dox.” Next, pointing at O’Shea. “You come with me.” Striding for the door, I chose to ignore the deep rumble of Dox’s laughter, a soft word, and then O’Shea’s laugh from behind me. Men, who the hell needed them? Surely, not me. I looked over my shoulder, caught O’Shea’s eyes as he watched me walk ahead of him. That would have been all fine and dandy if he hadn’t winked at me. One slow, promise-filled wink from a dark eye that sparked all kinds of naughty thoughts in my head. Damn, I was so screwed.
He enjoyed watching Rylee get flustered, liked to watch her in-control exterior crack. But more than that, he liked knowing he was the one to make her blush, to make her skin hot, and her pupils dilate. Buggered, he was so buggered by this woman it nearly made him forget Agent Valley’s threat. Would it matter to him if she wasn’t his partner on paper, if he had her in his bed? The thought of her na**d and writhing beneath him, her words a whispered plea in his ear, made him forget for a moment how very angry he was with her. How only moments before he’d wanted to strangle the life out of her for scaring him, taking off with the Harpy like that. And the waiting . . . the not knowing if she was coming back.
“Stop dawdling, Agent.” She slid into the driver’s side with a flick of her auburn hair. Dawdling?
One way or another, O’Shea knew he would get Rylee to trust him. Damned if he knew how, but he would fight for it. If all she would give him was a partnership on the job, then he’d take it. Though, by the returning heat he saw in her eyes, he suspected he wasn’t the only one thinking naughty things. That made him smile as he opened the passenger’s door and jumped into the SUV.
“What are you so happy about?”
Trust, trust came with honesty. Biting the bullet, he said the first thing that came to mind.
“I was thinking about the hotel room.”
It was if all the air got sucked out of the vehicle in one fell swoop. He turned in his seat to see her staring at him, lips parted, tri-coloured eyes wide and showing more green and gold than brown.
“You . . .”
He shrugged, pleased by her reaction and trying his best not to show it. “Are we going, or staying?”
Rylee’s mouth shut with a click and she turned the vehicle on, backed out a little too fast, spitting gravel out all around them. “We’re going.”
Seeing as she’d used her wiles on him on their last case to keep him off balance, it seemed only fitting that he reverse the tables on her.
They drove in silence for about ten minutes before he decided to chance a conversation. “What could be blocking you from feeling Louisa properly if she isn’t on the other side of the Veil?”
Amusement flitted through him as he saw her sigh of relief at his question.
“I’m not sure. Usually kids are on this side of the Veil, or the other, dead or alive. This fuzzy limbo shit is not something I’ve run into before.” She pushed her back deep into the seat, arms poker straight. “But Ricky is still hanging on. He’s still asleep; I think the Ass Hat has him sedated.”
O’Shea nodded. “The kid will hang on, the Troll wants you. He’d doesn’t give a shit about the kid.”
“I know. That’s what worries me. Shit on a stick. We have to get to Louisa, and find the other Shamans.”
He didn’t respond. The thing he’d learned early on as an agent was that there was always another case. There was always someone else who needed you more. In this kind of a job you had to at some point become inured to the fact that you couldn’t save them all. It just wasn’t possible. Looking at her profile, the tight worry around her eyes, the grim line of her mouth, he knew better than to share that truth.
And maybe she would be one of the lucky ones. Perhaps that was why he made a promise he shouldn’t have. “We’ll get it done. We’ll help Louisa, she’ll help you, and we’ll save the kid.”
She gave him a quick look. “Even I know you’re trying to make me feel better. Thanks, but it isn’t necessary. I don’t need the moral boost. You do the best you can. Some people make it, some people don’t. And the Ass Hats of the world get smoked in between.”
A grin slipped across his face; he had underestimated her. Yet again, she was proving herself to be the kind of woman he thought didn’t exist.
He closed his eyes, leaned his head back in his seat, and did his best to concentrate on the case, flipping it from all angles. The problem was, with his eyes closed, all he could see was a na**d Rylee beckoning to him, her sweet lips curving into a smile as she wrapped her arms around him. Which, while more than pleasant, did nothing to help him concentrate.
“Fuck.” He grumbled, shifting his ass, wishing he’d worn tighter pants.
“What’s got your knickers in a knot?”
He almost told her. Almost.
We pulled into Louisa’s property, a large southwestern style gate arcing over the entrance, complete with the skull of a bull on the crest of it. I rolled down my window, driving slow enough that the crunch of my tires on the dirt was the only noise. There was no hum of energy, no telltale scent of a spell leaking through.
“You think we’re going to sneak up on her?”
I wasn’t sure if he was being an ass or not, all his mumbling and grumbling on the drive made me wonder if he’d gotten into some of Dox’s ogre beer after all.