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Priceless(Rylee Adamson #1)(13) by Shannon Mayer

“I’ve gotta go then. If I can get a head start, maybe I can keep him out of the way this time.”

Dox walked me to the door. “He’s the one who went after you, isn’t he?”

Blinking away sudden tears, I cleared my throat and hid the moisture in my eyes with a hand through the hair. “Yeah, but he never could prove anything; not a motive, nothing. He just wanted to be right, to break the big case.”

“Well, I’ll stall him much as I can.” He pulled me into a big hug, being careful of my arm, letting me go just as carefully.

A cold nose bumped into my hand. “Alex too.”

Laughing, Dox lifted Alex into a hug, which the werewolf did his best to reciprocate—not an easy task when your limbs are stuck between human and wolf.

“Can’t say I’ve ever hugged a werewolf before,” Dox said, patting Alex on the head. The werewolf’s tongue lolled out as he stared up at Dox. A sudden thought hit me—hard.

“If something ever happens to me, Dox, will you take Alex? His pack’ll kill him.”

The ogre frowned, his piercings clinking together. “I don’t know, Rylee. Just don’t get yourself into trouble, how about that?”

I nodded and pushed through the door into the brilliant white sunlight that was New Mexico. If only it were as easy as Dox made it out to be. The thing was, when it came to me and trouble, we went together like ice cream and pie.

14

The drive back to North Dakota took about the same amount of time as heading south, only now I was counting down in my head the time we had until O’Shea would be up and at ‘em. Or more accurate, up and at me.

First thing, we went to the hospital. I didn’t go in to see Giselle, just had the nurse give me the update. They didn’t think she had swine flu—which I already knew—and she was being evaluated for a respite home.

“How soon will they know?”

The nurse flipped through the paperwork. “Looks like we should have everything back by the end of the week.”

Tapping the counter I bit the edge of my lip. “You’ll keep her in until then?”

“Yes, we don’t get the final results back from her blood work until then either.” The nurse said as a beeper went off. “Excuse me.”

At the mention of blood, I fingered the stitches on my arm wrapped with a soft bandage.

Climbing back into my Jeep, I turned around and headed home to stock up on supplies. I would need flashlights, my climbing harness and rope, and riot gear, to name a few things. Almost three hours later, the place I called home came into sight.

As we pulled into the driveway, I reached for India and felt a distant pang of loneliness and fear, then a wash of curiosity. That was odd, and not in a good way. If whoever had her was piquing her curiosity, it might be harder to extricate her from them.

The big, two-story farmhouse needed a paint job, and there were parts of the white picket fence that were down, but it was still a sturdy house that more than did the job. Upstairs was all bedrooms, and I left that to Alex for the most part. My room was on the main floor with the kitchen off one side and the only bathroom in the house on the other.

The house was cool inside, a breeze blowing through the open windows, keeping the air from going stagnant while I was gone.

Alex whimpered and clung to my leg. Not a good sign. Waving for him to stay behind, then pressing one finger to my lips for him to stay quiet, I eased two blades out of my boots. The thing was, weapons, guns in particular, didn’t always work around the supernatural. They would misfire, explode and even fall apart for no apparent reason. Knives and blades on the other hand, they always worked just fine.

Creeping through the house, my ears strained to catch the slightest sound, a breath of air, the shuffle of clothing. The wooden floors didn’t creak under my steps, but still the tension around me rose. Someone— or something—was in the house. I just didn’t know what.

Looking over my shoulder at Alex, I lifted my eyebrows and pointed up. He nodded.

Whoever or whatever it was, they were upstairs. Damn. Moving as fast as I could while still staying quiet, I started up the curling staircase. I avoided the fourth step up; I knew it creaked. Just before the bend in the stairs that would expose me to the top floor, I paused.

Skin tingling, I knew I was in trouble a split second before the wash of magic hit me. Electricity danced over my body, blue and sparking as the spell slammed me into the far wall, and then it dissipated. Round one to Rylee and her magic dissolving abilities. At least I didn’t get the full brunt of the spell.

“Alex, run!” was all I managed to gasp out before being slammed again, this time with a chair launched at me by another spell. It rarely took the bad guys long to realize they could use other things to smash me rather than using the magic itself. My head snapped against the plaster wall with a solid thud. Black circles spun across my vision; I tried to sit up and failed on the first attempt. Leaning against the wall, I used my legs to push me up. Alex leapt over me, growling and snarling, his hackles standing on end from the base of his neck all the way down his bushy tail.

Steps scampered down the stairs, the intruders no longer making any attempt to hide themselves.

“Alex.” I moaned, grabbing at his collar. “Outside. Now.”

My fingers tightened on the collar as the werewolf spun and scrambled back down the stairs and out the open front door, dragging me with him. The porch stairs bounced me hard as he ran full tilt out into the closest field.

Wheat stalks waved above my head as Alex ran, my body flopping limply, hitting every protruding rock that crossed our path. Damn, I was going to be bruised tomorrow. Of course, that was assuming whoever was trying to kill me would give up and go away.

A flash of blue ripped over our heads. Apparently they, whoever they were, were not going away just yet.

“Alex stop,” I said. We couldn’t just keep running. He skidded to a panting, shaking stop, his sides trembling with fear more than exhaustion. As a werewolf, he had more than enough strength to drag me around.

I lay there on the dirt, my mind racing with options. There just weren’t that many. Rolling over to my belly, I began to army crawl deeper into the wheat patch. Alex crouched down and mimicked me, his claws digging into the soft, dry dirt.

If we could get around to the back of the house, I had weapons there stashed in the cellar. In particular, a water gun of sorts that worked off of a pump action that I could load with salt water—salt water worked wonders on magic users, blocking their ability to spell. I only had my two blades on me; I’d been stupid to try and face whoever was in the house without more.

Halfway through the wheat, I closed in on the back of the house, when a wisp of smoke curled past my nose. Alex whimpered. A crackle of the fire they’d lit reached my ears, just as I saw the first sign of flames curling toward us.

“Mother f**kers,” I hissed. No choice now. I jumped to my feet, fought the first wave of vertigo and sprinted across the last hundred feet to the back of the house, Alex tight on my heels.

A bolt of blue electricity propelling a rock clipped my heel as I dove for cover, spinning me in the air. Hitting the ground hard knocked the wind out of me, but I didn’t slow down; I couldn’t, not if I wanted to make it out of this alive.

The wind blew hard, fanning the flames right toward the house at a speed I wasn’t sure I could beat. Ripping open the cellar door, I pushed Alex down ahead of me and slammed the door shut, barring it behind us.

“Damn it all to hell,” I grumbled under my breath, like it was a normal occurrence for me to be attacked in my own home. Because it wasn’t, and the whole thing was freaking the hell out of me. Worse, if I let on how scared I was, I’d have Alex spazzing out in a split second. Let me tell you, having a panicked werewolf in a tight confined space is not a good idea, even if you are Immune.

I flipped on the light switch and the fluorescent bulb buzzed to life. The cellar door would buy us time—if we were lucky, about ten seconds before they blew it off its hinges.

I grabbed a flak jacket; it was thin, the lightest one on the market, to make it easy for me to hide it under my clothes. It wouldn’t stop the spells, but it would help protect my body, which right now needed all the help it could get.

Pulling off my shirt, I slipped into the spelled flak jacket and strapped it on, tightening it so it couldn’t be blown off me, then pulled my shirt back over it. Next came the pump action spray gun—yet another of Milly’s good ideas. Loading it with salt water from a sealed milk jug in the corner, I once more owed my friend. “Thank you Milly,” I said under my breath.

With a shudder, the cellar door blew open. “Behind me, Alex!” I shouted.

I grabbed an arm length sword off the wall and faced the open door with both weapons. Nothing moved. Even the sound of the wind seemed to have died down.

Gliding, as if it were on wheels instead of feet, a cloaked figure moved in front, blocking the light. Alex let out a whimper and scuttled backwards. I kind of wanted to do the same. The person’s face was not covered by the cloak, but was instead distorted with some sort of spell, leaving the face a blur, like when you adjust the T.V. rabbit ears, and everything scatters across the screen. Flashes of eyes, mouth and ears whipped around on the face, leaving me unable to give any sort of an impression of whether it was even a man or a woman.

Freaky.

“You will not come for the girl. She belongs to us.” The voice was a monotone, giving nothing away.

I leaned forward on one of the swords. “Well, I can’t do that. How do I know you aren’t molesting her, or worse, making her into the next Martha Stewart?”

Silence. “You are insolent.”

“I’ve been told that a time or two,” I said, a distinct throb starting at the base of my neck. “Tell you what, I won’t come for her if I can keep you tied up here in my basement and make use of you as I will. I mean, that’s a fair trade—”’

The door slammed shut and I laughed. “Really? Locking me in my room because I’ve been naughty? That’s the best you can do?”