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Priceless(Rylee Adamson #1)(10) by Shannon Mayer

I parked and Alex followed me out, tight on my heels, my command that he stay close still with him. I stretched and he mimicked me as best as his contorted body would let him. It brought a smile to my face and I was glad he’d come to find me at the hotel, though the reason for it sucked.

The lady at the front desk checked me in, gave me a key and we went to our room. No point in calling in on my friend now, he slept till after noon every day. The Shaman I was here to see was even worse, she would be inactive until dusk. And if there was one thing I’d learned, it was that you didn’t mess with a Shaman’s schedule, not if you wanted their help.

Double locking the door behind me, I checked the room, and then flopped onto the bed, Alex throwing himself down beside me. Within moments I was asleep. For once, it was dreamless.

Hours later I pulled myself awake. “Damn,” I flicked open the curtain. I’d slept longer than I’d planned. Jumping out of bed, I grabbed Alex and we headed out to find my friend. Ogre he might be, but he was also the best source of information I knew down here.

The motel’s door barely creaked under my hand, but a voice still called to us from within the building.

“Won’t be a second.”

Knowing who it was, I followed where the voice had come from. A large, pale blue-skinned Ogre stood in front of the stove, his dark blue hair in a long braid down his back. He wasn’t as big as some I’d seen, but he was still large, well over seven feet. He had piercings through his nose, lip and eyebrow, but none in his ears. Absently I wondered if it signified anything or if he was just trying to keep up with the human culture.

I sauntered up to him, sure of my welcome. “How you doing, Dox?”

With a roar, he spun and pulled me into a bear hug, slapping my back, much to Alex’s displeasure as made apparent by his muttered grumbling.

“I’ll be snookered, Rylee! It’s been months since you been down our way. How in freaky fairyland are you?” He held me at arm’s length, ignoring Alex’s grumbles, and inspected my condition. I must not have passed because before I could answer, he spun me around and sat me at the large table. I always felt like a child sitting at a table that was made for Dox and his buddies. “Here, sit and eat.” He pushed a plate of brownies toward me and I snagged one. If Dox was a perfectionist for anything, it was his cooking. He smiled at me, a twinkle in his eye, “Freshly baked boggart brownies are the best for what ails you.”

I froze with one of said brownies halfway to my mouth. “No boggarts in them I hope.” He laughed at my expression and pushed one toward Alex, who sat at my side, a sceptical look on his face as he sniffed the pastry.

“Nah. Picked the recipe up from a boggart passing through and added it to my repertoire.” He placed one big hand over his heart. “You wouldn’t truly believe I’d feed you boggart without telling you, would you?”

I snorted. “I seem to remember a certain meal that consisted of mystery meat which turned out to be—”

“Ah yes, I remember. Let’s not discuss that. It didn’t turn out well for anyone.” He grimaced and I smiled around the brownie. Goblin meat is not very tasty, no matter how many spices you add to it. And when the process reverses and the meat comes out the way it went in, it burns. I’d eaten nothing for the next week that didn’t hurt all the way down.

“So, you here needing help?”

I nodded, my mouth full. He handed me a glass of milk. After a chug of moo juice, I answered him. “There’s a kid I can’t track and there was no evidence of her even being taken. Figured a shaman was my best bet. I was hoping Louisa would help me out.”

Dox frowned and sat down across from me. “You haven’t heard then?”

I frowned right back at him. “Haven’t heard what?”

He let out a sigh and folded his hands on the table. “All the shamans, all except one, have left. Gone. Pfft.” He made a flapping gesture with one big mitt.

“What? Louisa would never leave, this is her home!”

“I know, but she’s gone. Not a word about it either until someone went looking and found only this Doran fellow.”

My eyes widened. “A male shaman? That’s taboo ‘round here, isn’t it?”

Dox nodded and pushed another brownie toward Alex, who took the square eagerly. “Yup. But he’s all we’ve got now. Suppose you want to know where to go looking for the new guy?”

I stood up and brushed crumbs off my lap. “Yes, doubly so now.”

Dox looked up at me, his eyes solemn. “Thought you didn’t Track adults.”

“Not going to Track them, Dox, just going to ask a few questions. If I have to work with this Doran, then fine. But I’d rather work with someone I know and can trust like Louisa.”

“Well then.” Dox stood and led me out of his kitchen, Alex right behind us. “Here’s his address.” He handed me a business card.

My eyebrows climbed near into my hairline. “He’s handing out business cards?”

Dox smiled down at me and patted my head. “Wait till you meet him, Rylee. I’m betting you two are going to just” —he clapped his hands together— “hit it off.” It was the twinkle in his eye that told me this Doran would be trouble. But I went anyway. I needed him to help me find India, no matter how much trouble he was going to be.

12

Alex was not happy I left him with Dox while I went on without him to meet with Doran. He whined and cried, whimpered, and finally started howling. I felt awful, knowing how submissive and downright needy he was. That is, until Dox pulled out another pan of boggart brownies, and Alex suddenly forgot all about me.

I pulled out of the driveway. I was headed to Shawnee road, on the far east side of town. Dusk fell and shadows darkened the road as I pulled up to where Doran was supposed to be. Sitting in my Jeep, I looked out over the empty lot. At first glance, it was nothing more than an overgrown weed garden, one lone attempt at a cactus in the far right corner, miserable excuses for houses on either side of the mid-sized lot, and no actual house of any sort. I glanced at the realtor posting out front and checked it against what Dox had given me. It matched up. Which could only mean one thing.

I focused on my second sight, narrowing my eyes, and saw the flicker of the veil cross my vision. When I opened my eyes fully, there was a massive adobe house with a beautiful herb garden, two small fountains in the shape of fish spouting water out their mouths and into a pond with koi swimming lazily about. Swanky for this part of town, even if it was on the other side of the veil.

“How the hell did you manage this?” I asked no one in particular. Which is why I was startled to get an answer.

“Hard work. A little luck. Good timing.”

I started as a body materialized behind the voice and a young man, no older than myself, was suddenly sitting on the passenger seat. Good thing indeed I hadn’t brought Alex with me. Doran was an average build. It was hard to distinguish his height while sitting, but I guessed he was about my height. White blond hair stuck straight up as if magnetized, the tips dyed black. It was a sharp contrast for his dark green eyes that spoke of humour and fun, not magic and wisdom. Two piercings over his left eyebrow and one in the right side of his lower lip made him look a bit like a punk rocker. I had a very hard time seeing him as a shaman.

I composed myself as fast as I could. “You must be Doran.”

He smiled, a big open grin splitting his face from ear to ear. “Yes. And those beautiful eyes must make you Rylee.”

I blinked, not sure how to react. Most people didn’t like my eyes, too many colours to be normal.

Clearing my throat, I nodded. “I need help with tracing a kid on the other side of the veil, but I don’t know how deep she’s been taken or which entry point to use.”

Doran shrugged. “Which one? Isn’t that always the question?”“ For a price, of course.” His eyes darkened. “The deep levels on the other side of the veil are not very welcoming right now. Perhaps you’d be better off forgetting about this kid.”

Deep levels? What was he talking about? I didn’t ask, though, as I knew it would only cost more and it likely didn’t matter.

“How much?” I chose to ignore his warning. Shamans were like that, always full of doom and gloom, and in that at least, he was no different.

“The price is steep, I’m not sure you will be willing to pay it.” He lifted an eyebrow, the two rings catching the last of the light from the setting sun through the windshield. “Come in, it’s far more cozy in my home.”

Leaving the safety and additional weapons in my Jeep, I followed him into his territory after a quick glance around to be sure no one was looking. A shiver of air rippled around me as I stepped across the veil. It was what separated the human world from the worlds where many of the supernatural creatures lived, hiding out just under the human’s noses.

Anyone watching would have seen us disappear and, though I was nervous, Doran didn’t seemed to be bothered at all. I knew most humans, if they did see something, would shake it off as a trick of the light. That’s not to say some humans didn’t go looking for the supernatural; they just didn’t know what they were looking at most of the time.

The fountain splashed merrily and the koi swam to the surface as we passed. “Little beggars,” Doran muttered, tossing them some small crumbs from his pocket. They gulped at the pieces, their mouths opening wide and showing flashes of silver and gold as they jostled for the bits of food.

Inside the adobe house, the air was warm, and a large open fire pit in the middle of the structure roared upward, keeping the chill autumn air at bay.

“Sit, we will discuss your needs . . . and mine,” he said, motioning to a plush cushion on the edge of the fire.

A worm of unease began to crawl through the base of my spine, making its way upward. I didn’t know this shaman and I’d walked in here like it was safe. What had I been thinking? “I’ll stand. You know what I need, name your price.”