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Immune(Rylee Adamson #2)(3) by Shannon Mayer

Alex bunted his head into my hand, “Rylee sad.”

A single deep breath. “Nope. Not sad.” I scratched him behind one floppy ear. “We’ve got to go now. Eve . . .” I turned to see her head nearly on the ground, large blobs of moisture gathered in the corner of her eyes.

A crying Harpy? I did not have time for this! Doing my best to keep my voice even, I asked, “What’s wrong, Eve?”

“You do not want me now, I am a burden.”

The barn door creaked open and a swirl of cold air and snow whipped in.

“Adamson, we’ve got a problem.”

“Damn, just add it to the pile,” I snapped, striding over to Eve, softening my voice. “Listen, I do want you with me, but do you really want to wear this?” I pulled the large bracelet out of my pocket. “It’s just like Alex’s collar, you wouldn’t be seen for what you truly are; in fact, it would actually change you, making you small enough to ride in the Jeep with me.”

She recoiled as if I’d slapped her, wings going wide as she scrambled away from me, knocking over bales of hay and generally making a ruckus that could probably be heard back at the house. I waited for her to settle down, my hands on my hips.

“You would spell me!”

Shaking my head, I answered her. “No, that’s why I didn’t suggest this. It’s why I would prefer you would go ahead of me to wait for us. That’s it.”

Alex sat between us and flopped a wave at O’Shea. “Hi ho. Alex going for car ride.” He grinned, tongue lolling out between his teeth.

“Where are you going? Milly wouldn’t tell me.” O’Shea asked, coming to stand beside me. I could smell him, even over the hay and dust of the barn. His cologne tickled my nose and made me want to bury my face into the crook of his neck. I glanced over and it was as if the cold wind from outside snuck in and whipped up my spine. “You’ve got lipstick on you.”

He grunted, lifted a hand to the small bare patch of skin on his neck, and wiped off the stain but said nothing about it. Fine. I could pretend like I didn’t care too.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

Shifting away from him, I blew out a breath. “Because right now I’m dealing with a rather more pressing issue.” I pointed at the Harpy who was all but cowering in the corner. It was so easy to forget that while she was huge and could kill with ease, she was still a child; she still needed the basics: love, attention, care.

“Eve, the only way you can come with me right now is if you wear this.” I held the gold bracelet up again and she hissed at me. “If you don’t want to come, that’s fine. I won’t make you do anything you don’t want to. You can go ahead on your own to meet me.”

I laid the bracelet on the ground. “You remember where I’m going?” She bobbed her head.

“You would let me decide?”

“Yes. Either way is fine. Just leave when I leave.”

O’Shea touched my arm, tugging lightly on my leather jacket. “We need to talk.”

“We can talk here.”

“I don’t want an audience.” Like a werewolf and a Harpy would have anyone to spill their guts to. Still, I followed him out of the barn, albeit reluctantly. As the door shut behind us, he stepped so close he was in my personal space—as in our bodies were brushing up against one another. In the past, he’d used this trick for intimidation, but it didn’t feel like that was the case now. I moved back and he followed until my back was pressed against the wooden boards of the barn.

“Hey, mind giving me some room here?”

“No, we need to talk. You’ve been avoiding me and Agent Valley. He wants an answer. He needs to know if you will work for him. The AA division could use you; they’re floundering trying to play catch up with the supernatural.”

I couldn’t stop the words, they slipped out before my filter kicked in. “And what do you want?”

The cold, wind, and world seemed to disappear around us. All I could see was his midnight dark eyes, the line of his jaw and lips. He swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing.

“I want . . .”

Alex took that moment to burst out of the barn, spinning as he chased his tail. Before we could move, he rammed into our legs, knocking us both to the ground. That’s what I get for letting myself be distracted.

The ground was frozen, hard, basically unforgiving. And it hurt like hell when my back slammed into it, O’Shea landing on top of me. The air rushed out of me in a whoosh, the weight of O’Shea not helping one bit.

“Off,” I managed. O’Shea did a push up over my body and stood, then offered me a hand.

I lay there waiting for my lungs to reconnect with my brain. Finally, I was able to suck in a breath of cold air that burned its way down my throat. Ignoring O’Shea’s outstretched hand, I rolled to my knees, then stood.

Alex was already at my Jeep, hopping and jumping in his excitement, claws digging into the paint as he worked at popping the handle open. It was hard for me to get mad at him; he didn’t mean any harm. Milly’s words came back to me. A part of me knew she was right; it would take a seemingly harmless bite from Alex and Milly would be turning fuzzy, maybe on a permanent basis. The other part of me wanted to smack her upside the head. She was the best goddamn witch around and she was afraid of one silly, submissive werewolf? Something was way off with her; I just had to figure out what. Add it to the list of problems.

“A penny for your thoughts,” O’Shea asked, holding out a polished coin to me. “They look dark and brooding. Are you going on a salvage?”

Ah, if only it were as simple as returning a child home. I lied, hating to do so. As much as I had only moments before been considering his help, I knew my mind would only be thinking about him and Milly in bed. Nope, not a good place for the psyche when on a salvage.

“No. Not today.”

I walked toward the root cellar. The entranceway was at the back of the house. Flakes of snow drifted down, the first of the year. It was later than usual. Maybe global warming, but more likely some damn weather elemental had its knickers in a knot.

“Adamson.”

My shoulders tightened when he used my surname. It was the only thing I had left from my past, from parents who didn’t want me and a little sister I was accused of murdering.

“Don’t call me that.”

His footsteps faltered. I slid the bar back on the old root cellar and flung the doors open. Dug out under the house, the cellar was a cool dry place, perfect to keep weapons and gear clean and ready for use. After trotting down the cement stairs, I breathed in deep. There was still the faint scent of smoke from the Black Coven trying to kill me and Alex, but there was also the hint of onions and some other vegetable I couldn’t identify from the previous use of the area.

I flicked a switch screwed onto an old piling that held the house up, and light flooded the room. With precise movements, I piled up the things I would need. Swords, blades, rope, flak jacket, first aid, and finally a coiled whip I’d only just added to my list of weapons.

O’Shea ducked his head in and frowned. “You have everything you need?”

The sarcasm in his voice was not lost on me. “Nope, forgot this.” I held up a black box that held a bunch of ready-made spells—courtesy of Milly—that was locked tight.

“And that is?”

“None of your business.” I brushed past him with my gear, made my way to my Jeep, piled it in, then went back and shut the cellar up. O’Shea hadn’t moved an inch.

“Rylee.”

My name on his lips stopped me in my tracks. I lifted my eyes to his, tried to figure out what was going on behind those nearly black eyes. What did he really think about me now? Or had his opinion not changed?

“What happened? I thought we’d moved past these games,” he said. “I thought you would want to work with me, finding kids, helping them get home.”

I couldn’t tell him the truth—that I wanted nothing more than to jump him, strip his clothes from his hard body, and taste every inch of him. Which of course had nothing to do with finding kids, not one bit. Never mind; he’d already chosen Milly. No need for me to rub salt in my own wounds. So I told him the other truth, the one that separated us as much, or more than Milly did.

“You do things the right way. By the book. I can’t, not in this world.” I lifted my hands over my head. “If I did everything by the book I’d be dead by now. If Giselle had gone by the book and put me in foster care, if she hadn’t taught me to fight, how to use a blade, how to hone my skills, I’d be dead a hundred times over. You can’t tell me the FBI is going to welcome in a rogue like me. Not truly. And the first time I f**k up.” I snapped my fingers, the meaning clear, but I said it anyway. “I’m done.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I do. And now I have to go.” Spinning on one heel, I strode to the Jeep, and let Alex in. He clambered up, all but vibrating with excitement.

“At least tell me what’s going on. Let me help you.” I could hear the anger under the words; he was barely holding it in. He was trying, and I wished to hell I could take him up on his offer.

Oh, how I wanted to believe him, how I wanted to think he would be that man in my life, someone I could depend on. But, I couldn’t, and I knew it.

Turning my back on him I slid into the Jeep. “It’s none of your concern, O’Shea.” And slammed the door shut.

3

None of his concern? O’Shea watched Rylee pull away, Alex bouncing like mad in the passenger seat. Slipping his sunglasses back on, he made his way around the side of the house and knocked on the front door.

Milly, Rylee’s friend, came to the door, opening it up wide. She was still wearing her skimpy robe, her long dark hair dishevelled. It looked as though she’d just stepped off a p**n set.

“Well, Mr. Agent man, you came back for what exactly?” Her words all but purred out, dripping with a sexual fever that perhaps in another time, he would have welcomed. As it was, he cleared his throat and kept his eyes on her face.