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Immune(Rylee Adamson #2)(18) by Shannon Mayer

He knew, in his gut, she did it because she cared, but hearing it from Dox made it more real.

“She’s so damn stubborn.” He yelped, his eyes snapping wide, as Dox hit a particularly tender spot.

Laughing, the ogre nodded. “That too. Though I suspect you might match her in that department.”

Grunting, he closed his eyes again.

“You need to tell her how you feel, man. She doesn’t play games. If she’s holding back, there’s a reason.”

Love life advice from an ogre? “And you would know this how?”

The needle snagged on a piece of skin and he sucked in a sharp breath, almost missing Dox’s answer.

“Because she’s honest to the core. Foul mouthed, stubborn, at times downright vicious when it comes to protecting those she cares about. But always, she’s honest. I don’t know that she’s got it in her to lie to you. Pin her down, tell her how you feel, and I bet” —Dox tied off the last stitch— “she’ll open up.”

The idea of pinning her down certainly had its merits. But before he could do that, he had to find her. Again.

“Thanks for the advice.” He scrubbed a hand through his hair. “I think.”

“Anytime. Want a beer to chase the ache away?”

O’Shea lifted an eyebrow, remembering all too well the hangover from the last beer he’d had at the Landing Pad.

“Thanks, I think I’ll pass.”

Dox laughed and moved out of the way, giving O’Shea room to get off the table. He stood, wincing when he tried to bear weight on his wounded leg. How the hell was he going to go after her? Sure, he could drive to Louisa’s again, but then he’d have to get past the Guardian, which wasn’t going to happen. Then there was the terrain, all on foot, with a messed up leg.

A flutter of movement from the courtyard through the window caught his attention, and he turned to Dox, a question in his eyes.

Dox smiled. “Man, it’s your life. But it probably would be the best way to catch up with her.”

With a ruthful grin, O’Shea limped out into the bright sunlight; that it was, on both counts.

Alex and I kept a steady pace, jogging as he scented the ground, following Louisa’s scent backwards to wherever she’d been held.

In theory, it was sound, but there were spots where we lost her trail either from the shifting sand, the time, or the wind, and apparently there had been a rain shower at some point. That was according to Alex, so I didn’t wholly believe it was the issue.

The biggest problem I was dealing with was Alex. Even now, sniffing along, he started to veer to one side, tail wagging as he picked up a scent that interested him, taking him from the task at hand.

“Alex, Louisa, not the f**king rabbits,” I said, slowing to wait on him.

With a doggy grin of shame, he shrugged. “Fucking rabbits smell good.”

I did not want to know that. “You can come back here and smell all you want later, but right now, I need you to find Louisa.”

He pointed back the way we’d come, head cocked. “Isa back.”

Oh crap. “No, I want you to find her, that way.” I pointed in the opposite direction. “Where she was before.”

“Gotcha!” And he was off again, following her scent late into the day. We stopped for dinner, sharing one of the ‘fucking rabbits’ over the fire. I wasn’t really hungry, and I was exhausted past the point of being able to sleep, laying there, feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. Ricky was waiting on me, and with the three Shamans left, no one else even had a clue where the hell they were. My fire opal was already half used up which stressed me out. From what Doran said, once I lost it, I would be hammered by the cold. Louisa had been stripped of her powers, but even when I questioned her, she would refer to her captor only as a ‘creature.’ I had no idea what we were walking into, not even a whisper of a clue. A small part of me wished Milly was here, but then I pushed that away. She wasn’t the friend she’d used to be; something had changed in her, taken her away, even if she was back with us in the physical sense.

Then there was O’Shea. I’d hurt him by leaving him behind. But if he died because of me, I wasn’t sure I could deal with that. Not again. It was one thing to lose people you knew, but didn’t really love, but to lose someone you loved was . . . my thoughts stuttered as I realized what I was thinking.

I was falling in love with the agent.

Everything in me went still, the truth of my own emotions shocking me to the core. Shit, I really didn’t like this; it was not in my plan. But, I’d never shied away from the truth before, not even when it hurt me. It just sucked so badly that the first man I felt these emotions for was sleeping with my best friend.

He’s not sleeping with her right now. The traitorous side of me spoke up, egging me on to a possibility I refused to consider. It didn’t matter that she—Milly—wasn’t here. I had my standards, and I would hold to them kicking and screaming if necessary. Which meant no stealing your best friend’s man, even if she kinda stole him first. Damn it, I wasn’t going to sleep anyway; might as well make something happen.

“Alex.” I stood. “Let’s get going.”

The werewolf got up, stretching with his paws jammed into his lower back, almost like a man. “Yuppy doody,” he grunted. “Going.”

Dropping his nose to the ground, he started following Louisa’s fading scent as I kicked dirt over the small fire we’d started.

The silver glints of Alex’s fur were all I had to follow as he followed his nose. I checked my weapons as we walked. Two swords, four daggers, the whip and a set of cuffs I’d snatched from the SUV. They would come in handy—that is, if Louisa’s captor had hands small enough to fit in the cuffs. All the spells I’d left in the SUV, unable to pack them with me without the chance of breaking them on myself. No need to knock my own ass to the ground; there were plenty enough other people willing to do that for me.

We were jogging, our footsteps silent in the almost pitch black night. The moon was dark, and my eyes struggled to keep Alex in sight. Just the flicker of movement paired with the silver tips of his fur kept me on the right track.

As we ran, the terrain slowly shifted from open desert to paved roads and family homes. This was where it was going to get tough.

Alex stopped, sniffing the air and the ground, and then slowly spun a circle. “Hard to smell.”

I waited, knowing there was nothing I could do to help. “You can do it, Alex, you can find her.”

His ears perked up and his tail wagged with the praise. Jamming his nose onto the cement, he took an exaggerated breath, stilling as he picked something up. “This a way.” He took off at a gallop, and I was hard pressed to keep up with him.

We ran down the silent street, our footsteps and breathing the only thing I could hear. At the first stop sign, Alex plunged his nose onto the ground again, lifted his head and howled a long piercing note as he bolted off to the left.

“Alex, no howling,” I yelped as lights in the neighbourhood started to flick on, dogs going ape shit and howling along with him. Damn it, the last thing we needed were ‘concerned citizens’ asking us questions. I turned on the speed, not seeing that Alex had stopped. I slammed into him, tackling him to the ground to try and soften my own impact. Of course, he thought the whole scene was great fun.

“Wrestling!” He grabbed me in a bear hug, pinning my arms to my side.

“No, no wrestling. It was an accident,” I grunted out, squirming my way out of his reach. His head drooped.

Getting to my feet, I knocked the dirt off my knees. “Okay, pick up Louisa’s scent again.”

He let out sigh. “No fun.” But did as I asked.

Over the next four hours, we wove our way in and out of subdivisions, and I began to see the major downside to my plan. Louisa had been hiding, and even in her altered state of incoherency, she’d had enough self-preservation to keep herself tucked away from prying eyes.

There was no straight line, and as dawn began to clear the sky, highlighting it pink and orange, I finally called a halt. Both of us were exhausted, but I didn’t want to go back to the Landing Pad. There was no way I’d convince O’Shea to stay behind a second time.

Worse, Alex had lost her scent. Weaving back and forth, we traced our steps back to the last place he could pinpoint her. Then, there was nothing, like she had never even been here.

Fatigue clawed at me. We needed a place to crash, if just for a few hours; then I could figure out what we were going to do. Putting my back against an older adobe style home, I worked my way over to the closest window and peeked in, scanning the darkened house. Built into the side of a cliff, it was painted a dark slate to blend into the surrounding area. Might work, if no one was home.

A car engine revved up and the lower level of the house came alive, the garage door opening, and a sleek sports car backing out and taking off. Before the garage door slid shut, I ducked inside, Alex right with me.

The interior of the house was warm, the lights were all out, and it seemed empty. “You hear anyone?”

Cocking his head to one side, Alex listened for a moment and then shook his head. “Nope.”

Perfect.

Working our way through the house, I checked all the rooms, eight in total, to make sure we were indeed alone. With no alarm system, we had a perfect place to sleep for a few hours.

Picking the bedroom with the balcony as an escape route if we needed to leave quickly, I closed the door behind us. Leaving my weapons and clothes on, I lay down on the padded mattress and fell asleep within moments, Alex lying across my legs.

You know the saying, ‘No rest for the wicked?’ Yeah, looked like it was going to apply to me.

The dream hit me hard, Faris standing there, smiling at me like a cat who’d just got into the freaking catnip.

“Hello, Rylee. You are such a pleasant diversion.”

I felt for my weapons, feeling nothing at my sides. “Fuck you and let me sleep.”