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Priceless(Rylee Adamson #1)(12) by Shannon Mayer

“The mineshaft, it runs deep, over 200 feet straight down, and its back in your home territory.” He took a deep breath and my hair actually fluttered toward him. With his chin just above my shoulder, he whispered into my ear. “They stole her, in the light of day, underneath her mother’s watchful eye. One moment she was in the playground, then poof” —he blew across my ear, sending a course of shivers through me— “she was gone.”

Just like Berget.

He stepped back, leaving me to listen to my heart hammering in my chest, the beat of it loud enough that I knew he could see my pulse jumping in my throat. Fear. I told myself it was fear and adrenaline; that was all.

Doran smiled at me, just lifting one corner of his mouth. He grabbed the lip rings with his fang and pulled at them, capturing my gaze with ease. There, at the corner of his mouth, it looked soft, as if it were the perfect place to press my lips to his.

“You’re half pint is finished, Rylee.”

“Huh.” I cleared my throat. “Right.”

“Here,” he said, that wicked smile still lingering on his lips, “Let me help you. I am rather good at stitching up wounds.”

I stumbled away from him, more out of fear for what I was feeling than for my safety. “No. You have your blood and I have my information.” He was trying to pull me under his thrall, and I was falling for it, my mind weak from the blood loss.

Keeping my eyes on him, I again backed toward the door, gripping my arm, keeping it closed as best I could. I had bandages in the Jeep. I just had to get there.

13

I was shaking by the time I got to my Jeep, and I knew I’d lost more blood than the pint I’d had to give up. “Ah, damn it!” I couldn’t get the wrap tight enough on my forearm. Giving up, I tied off the wrap and turned on the Jeep. The engine turned over nicely and I pulled away from the curb.

If I’d been home, I would’ve gone to the hospital and checked on Giselle, and got stitched up there. As it was, Dox could stitch me up.

I barely made it back to the Landing Pad when a wave of dizziness crashed over me. Leaning on the horn, I didn’t lift off until Dox came running out, Alex on his heels with a grin stretched across his face.

“What the hell happened?” Dox’s voice rebounded as if he had a mega phone. Just another quirk of being an ogre. A perk when you had to yell over a noisy crowd; a serious pain when it was right in your ear.

“A bargain. I got what I needed, but now I’m thinking I could use some stitches.”

Dox helped me out and, when my legs buckled, swept me up into his arms and strode into his bar. “Seriously, I didn’t think he’d go this far. I’ll kill him.”

“Can’t. He’s a daywalker.”

He stopped mid-stride and looked down at me. “Did he bite you?”

I shook my head. “No, but I had to give him some blood.” I took a deep breath. “Just a little.” I tried to make a pinching motion with my thumb and forefinger on the hand of the arm I’d cut. Nothing moved. “Oops.”

“Oops, my ass, Rylee. You cut too damn deep!” He laid me out on the bar. The polished wood was cool and felt nice against my bare skin. Bare skin?

Lifting my head, I glanced down at my body. Apparently I’d passed out somewhere in the process as my shirt had been cut off me. Hell, I’d liked that shirt.

Dox was on the inside of the bar, my arm in his hands as he cleaned and probed the knife wound. “Why did you use your own blade? You know they are spelled to cut deep.”

Shrugging while lying down didn’t really give the effect I wanted. “I didn’t want to use the razor he left out. Was afraid he might have put something on it.”

He grunted, but stopped chastising me. We both knew daywalkers, just like their counterparts, were more than apt when it came to knocking out their victims and draining them dry over a long period of time.

At first the tug and pull on my skin as Dox stitched me up didn’t hurt. It just felt weird. And then all my adrenaline started to wear off.

“Ow! Damn it.” I tried to keep myself from jerking away from him. Alex bounded over to me, bunting his head into my good hand, which hung off the bar. “Hey, buddy.” His tongue lolled and his eyes were wide with worry. “Rylee hurt.”

“Only for a minute. Were the brownies good?” I made a real attempt to not give into the pain starting to burn up my arm.

Alex bobbed his head. “More brownies?”

“Maybe later.”

Dox stuck me again and I hissed in a breath past my teeth. “Unnecessary roughness.”

“Where’s Milly?” The ogre asked.

“The Coven finally accepted her. It meant she had to cut ties with me and Giselle.” A new pain flared up, right around my heart.

He paused in his of torturing me. “And she did it? Are you kidding me?”

Again, I attempted a shrug. “It’s what she’s wanted as long as I’ve known her. I’m not going to take it away from her. Though I still want to kick her ass.”

The stitching resumed and I kept my other hand busy petting Alex’s head, scratching his ears, reminding myself this was the price to pay for India. That helped.

“I have to drive home as soon as possible,” I said as Dox put in the last stitch. I looked over at his needlework. “Those are good, better than any doctor I’ve seen do stitches.”

He snorted out a laugh. “You don’t get to the top of the food chain without being able to stitch yourself up from time to time.”

It took me a minute to realize what he meant. “You’ve had to stitch yourself up?”

“More than once.” He held his hand out to me and helped me to sit up on the bar, just as the door binged and the first real patron of the day came in.

Just my luck, it was someone I knew, far too well.

O’Shea.

“Adamson, what the hell are you . . . are you bleeding?” His voice shifted, as he covered the distance between us. I’ll be buggered; he was worried about me.

“Yes, thank you very much. Now if you wouldn’t mind, I’m half na**d and would like to get some clothes on without you staring at all that God gave me.” I glanced sideways at him and batted my eyelashes for good measure.

Even in the dim light, I watched in fascination as the colour crept up his neck and into his face. “Are you blushing, O’Shea?” Milly, Milly, why didn’t I believe you about this power women have over men long ago?

“Don’t tease him, Rylee. Any man would stare at what you’ve got.” Dox gave me a long wink; I knew he didn’t mean anything by it. I stretched my arms over my head, feeling O’Shea’s gaze linger on my skin, like a touch. If this was all it took to keep him quiet, then I needed to modify my regular wardrobe to be more like Milly, with skin-tight, revealing clothes. Anything to keep O’Shea off balance.

“I’m not staring at you. I’m looking to see where all the blood came from. Or is it not yours?” His voice prickled with malice.

I froze with my hands above my head. “You want me to leave them up here while you read me my rights?” Shimmying off the bar, I hopped to the floor, not lowering my hands. The world swayed and all thoughts of bravado left me as I concentrated on not falling flat on my face.

Hands steadied me. “I guess that answers my question.” O’Shea’s voice rumbled too close for comfort. With a jerk, I slid out of his hands and backed up to the closest bar stool.

“What do you want?” I snapped, no longer interested in playing games.

“You mean to tell me that you don’t know? Adamson, I’d have thought after all these years you’d know I frequent the dives of New Mexico on my off days.” He pulled out a bar stool next to me and sat down.

“Beer,” was all he said when Dox lifted his eyebrows. Of course, O’Shea couldn’t see what Dox really was, anymore than he could see a werewolf and not a large dog slinking toward him with his teeth bared.

“Alex, here,” I said, my tone brooking no argument. Alex grumbled under his breath, something that could easily be written off by human ears as a growl.

Pressing up against my leg, he glared at O’Shea, who turned to look at the “dog” at my side. “What is he?”

“A mutt,” was my only answer. Dox put a coaster down in front of O’Shea, followed by an ice-cold beer that soaked through the paper coaster within seconds.

O’Shea nodded his thanks and took a long drag off the bottle. “Best beer I’ve tasted in a long while, almost a hint of something in it. Can’t quite put my finger on it.”

What the hell was this small chat shit? What was his game? As he and Dox discussed the different local brews, I slipped from my stool and headed to the back room where I knew Dox kept some spare clothes.

A black t-shirt that was a little on the tight side and said “Suck it!” on the front was not my first choice, but the other option was an extra large that stated it was a tool shed. Nope, “Suck it!” didn’t look too bad, especially not with O’Shea waiting out front.

Alex stayed at my side, his presence a steady comfort. If I wasn’t careful, I’d come to rely on him to be there, like a large teddy bear. I washed the blood off my arm and body then tugged the too-tight shirt on over my head.

Stepping into the bar again, I was shocked to see O’Shea passed out on the bar.

“What happened? I was only gone like five minutes.” I plucked open one of O’Shea’s eyelids.

Dox laughed. “Well, after he dissed my place—again—I offered him some of the local juice.”

I let out a groan. “Ogre beer?”

He just smiled, didn’t even bother to nod. “Well, how long will he be out?” The stuff was potent. What moonshine was to water, Ogre Beer was to human alcohol. I’d never tried it myself, though apparently it was sweet and tangy. It was the after kick that worried me.

“Oh, he’ll be out for about an hour, then have a hangover for at least another four,” Dox said, wiping down the bar around the FBI agent. And just where was his partner exactly? Nope, didn’t matter, wasn’t my issue.