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Immune(Rylee Adamson #2)(17) by Shannon Mayer

“Not so pretty now, am I?” She started to laugh, but ended up coughing, blood flecking the white handkerchief she pressed to her lips.

Standing in front of her, I couldn’t help but stare, didn’t know where to start. To be this far gone, to have so much stripped from her, it was an impossible thought.

“Tell Dox, I am so sorry for accusing him. But I needed to get your attention.”

My eyes widened at her apology, but I kept my mouth shut and waited for her to finish.

She tipped her head to one side, her eyes flicking away from mine, her voice softening, a slight tremor in it. “I am being watched, by a darkness I cannot shake.”

My thoughts went to Faris immediately. Was it him? She went on.

“I was afraid to reach out to you. It is why I thought it best to look as though we were at odds. Whatever is watching me is hungry for power, for blood, for control.”

“That why you muffled your threads?”

Nodding, her eyes darted up to mine. “I hoped he would lose interest if he could no longer feel my life force as strong as before.”

I licked my lips. “Is he still watching you?”

Her eyes sharpened. “How do you know it is a he?”

“Lucky guess.”

That gaze never left my face, and it took everything I had not to squirm. Finally, she answered. “No, whoever he was has removed his presence. Do you know of whom I speak?”

I rolled my shoulders. “Yeah, if it’s the same one, I know who it is. A vampire named Faris.”

Louisa gripped the edge of her seat, breathing out the word, “Vampire.”

The air around us stilled, and then she shook it off. “Enough, he is gone and there is naught I can do for it now. I need your help, Rylee. Desperately.”

Rocking back on my heels, I stepped back from her, already knowing what she would ask and knowing that I would do it. “Tell me.”

“I would ask a trade. Free my sister Shamans. Stop this” —she waved skeletal hand at her body— “from happening to them. And I will owe you a favour.”

“A big ass favor,” I said. “Not some round about, ‘I gave you iced tea when you came to visit’ piece of shit Shaman garbage.”

She sucked in a large breath, eyes going wide. I’d never spoken to her that way before. Maybe it was the demon venom.

Nope, I was just pissed off.

“You beat the hell out of Dox, manipulated me into coming down here to rescue your friends, yet every time I needed your help, I had to pay for it. Usually through the f**king nose! Why should I help you?”

Tears glinted in her eyes, but her mouth was a hard line. “Do you not need us to help purge the venom? Would that not be a good enough trade of gifts?”

How the hell had she known? The Shaman spoke again, perhaps seeing the question in my eyes; more likely she just knew me well enough by now.

“I can see it in you, Rylee, the venom flows sluggish in your body, kept at bay by your immunity and the fire opal. But still it flows, seeking an outlet to another person, one it would devour, one it would use to bring about the destruction of the world. It is like a killing charm lying across you, a burden no other could take. If the wolf had been the recipient, even now we’d be facing legions of the undead and demons that our minds could not comprehend. If the child had been the one to take the blow, she would even now be opening portals across the deep levels of the Veil, bringing destruction and chaos to reign on Earth as it has never before done. But you” —she reached out, brushing my hand with her fingers— “you have it in you to contain all that evil with barely a dip in your ability to exist.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because I do not think this will be the last time you will have to carry a burden that no other can.”

Her words struck me to the core. I did not want to do this again, and I wasn’t even at the end of this round.

“My sisters are waiting on you, Rylee. And is there not a child also waiting on you, left behind in the north?”

I closed my eyes, the weight of responsibility to so many as heavy as it got. Shit. Opening my eyes, I pushed it all down. I had a job to do, and I couldn’t do it cowering in the f**king corner.

“Where are they, your sisters?”

Louisa shifted in her seat, a grimace twisting her face. “I do not know. I escaped, but only because the creature who held us thought me dead, throwing my body out with the refuse. Hallucinating, delusional with fever, I made my way home on foot, but I have no idea how far I came.”

Tapping a sword tip against my boot, I asked, “Do you have something of theirs, something personal I can use to Track them?”

She shook her head. “No, we keep nothing like that of each other’s, the temptation to set magic upon each other in the past was too great.”

Fabulous. A thought circled around my head, one I considered a distinct possibility. “Which direction did you come from?”

Pointing to the back of the property, she said softly, “The north. Through the mountain pass.”

What other choice did I have? I stared in that direction, wishing to hell now that I’d at some point visited one of the other Shamans. Short sighted—it wasn’t something I’d make the mistake of again.

“Rylee, there is something you need to know. The creature who took us, she drained my powers, that is why my Guardian arose. It is why the giant eagle now searches the skies. As a Shaman’s powers are drained, their Guardian rises to protect them.”

“What is it,” I asked, “The creature who took you?”

Louisa’s head dropped. “I am not certain. She looked human.” We both knew no human could manage this sort of damage on a Shaman.

“Okay.” I turned to leave. Her voice called me back.

“You do not understand, Rylee. You need at least four Shamans to draw the venom out of you. If the creature takes another one of my sisters, you will be set to carry this demon with you. But if you kill the creature, our powers will be released back to us.”

I looked over my shoulder and gave her a tight smile, my heart racing at the thought of not being able to bring Ricky home. “I guess I’d better get moving then.”

Striding through the house, I nodded at the Guardian, one supernatural to another. Grabbing Alex’s collar, I gave him a tug. “Come on, boys.”

O’Shea followed, limping slightly, blood dripping down his right leg, a big wet spot where Alex had laid his head. Those pants were done for. “Where are we headed?”

“You are headed back to Dox, to get stitched up. Alex and I are going to track Louisa’s back trail.”

Alex hopped on his back legs. “Alex wins.”

“Sit,” I snapped, pointing to the ground. Alex slammed his butt into the dirt so hard a puff of dust billowed up around him.

Big amber eyes stared up at me and he whispered, his lips barely moving over his teeth. “Alex wins.”

I swore that the male species would be the death of me. “No, you . . . just sit there.”

Moving over to O’Shea, I tried to hustle him into the SUV. “I’m not going.”

“You can’t come with me. You need to get stitches and you can barely walk.” I poked him in his hip, making him crumple almost to the ground to prove my point.

Pulling himself back up, he countered. “I’m damn well not leaving you on your own again. You don’t know what you’re going after . . . .”

I was already shaking my head. “Rarely do I know what I’m going after. It’s called flying by the seat of your pants for a reason. It’s how I work.”

It was hard for me to turn my back on him, to walk away. Because I was starting to rely on having him with me. If nothing else, I knew I wasn’t alone. Alex butted his head into my hand, his wounds already healed up, as if they had never been.

“Rylee.”

I didn’t look back, couldn’t. O’Shea’s voice had softened. “I can’t watch you go off on your own, not again.”

I took a deep breath.

“Then close your eyes.”

11

He slammed the heels of his hands onto the steering wheel, fury keeping him from feeling the gouges in his leg. Damn her! When he’d gone to follow her, that bear Guardian bastard had stepped out on the porch; its freaky silver eyes making him feel every inch the human he was. No words were needed; O’Shea knew the Guardian would never let him pass.

Rylee had walked away, Alex at her heels, happy as a f**king lark. And here he was, so pissed off he could barely see straight.

The Landing Pad came into view in a surprisingly short time. Of course, it didn’t hurt that he’d had his foot almost hammered to the pedal the entire way.

Limping his way into the front of the motel, he started hollering for Dox.

The ogre came bounding out from deeper in the building, his eyes widening. “Where is she?”

“She blodoy well took off without me again.” Of course, he wasn’t going to admit there had been no way he could get past the Guardian to go after her. Not to mention his hip being flayed open like a steak.

“Shit. Well, let’s get you stitched up so you don’t bleed all over the desert looking for her.”

“I should just leave her on her own.” He grumped, turning so Dox could get a better look at the gouges.

“Louisa’s Guardian do this?”

“Yes.” He hissed out as the ogre poked at the torn flesh.

“Could be worse. There’s lots of blood, and your pants are done for, but it could be worse.”

“That’s what she said.”

Dox pointed him to a table and O’Shea hiked himself up on it, feet propped up by a chair.

The ogre made swift work of the stitches.

“You aren’t going to leave her on her own, are you?” Dox lifted his head, pausing in his stitching to ask the question.

“No. I’m not.”

“Good. She deserves someone who won’t give up when she pushes them away. She does it because she wants to protect you.”