Priceless(Rylee Adamson #1)(14) by Shannon Mayer
I didn’t hear the flames right away, not over my laughing. I shrugged, not worried in the least. There was a second way out leading to the trap door in my kitchen below the table. Trotting down the dirt hallway, I climbed the four-step ladder, grabbed the handle and twisted hard to the left.
Alex whimpered and I frowned. Twisting it again, I jammed my shoulder against the trap door and pushed again. Nothing.
“Alex, help me,” I said, feeling the first stirrings of panic. How had they known the trap door was even there?
The werewolf climbed the ladder beside me, his movements awkward and the space tight. “Now push, buddy.”
Together we shoved hard on the door as the room filled with smoke. It wouldn’t be the flames that killed us. Shit, shit, shit.
Even with both of us pushing with all we had, the door didn’t budge; the wood didn’t even splinter and break. They’d re-enforced it with a spell.
We were trapped.
He sped the whole way back from New Mexico to make up time, lights flashing on his SUV, sporting a massive hangover. O’Shea picked up Martins and filled him in before they raced to catch Adamson, the tracking device working well for once, showing him she’d gone home.
“There’s got to be a ring of them working together. I think she’s working with someone who kidnaps the kids, then she ‘finds’ them for a cost. A perfect sting on parents who are desperate.” O’Shea actually wasn’t sure of his new theory, he was just so pissed she’d dodged him again, he’d grasp at anything.
“Why wouldn’t she just phone?”
“She doesn’t look like the type to kill anyone, especially not her own sister. Nor the type to kidnap kids for money.”
O’Shea snorted. “That’s what she’d like us to believe, no doubt. But we can have a chat with her, try to loosen up her tongue.” That brought a far too intimate image to mind, one that he quickly banished. He took the turn-off leading up to her home without pausing to even check the road sign. There were many nights he’d staked out her house early on, waiting, hoping for the break he’d need to finally put her behind bars. But what he’d seen was a woman who’d grown up with no family, alone in the middle of nowhere. He tried not to think about how it must feel for her to be alienated from everything she knew.
As they pulled into the yard, a strange sight met them. Four hooded figures stood near the back of the house, not trying to conceal themselves, but standing there, not moving. Smoke curled around their feet, looking like it came from the other side of the house.
“What the hell is this?” Martins asked.
O’Shea shrugged. “No idea.”
They stepped out of the SUV in tandem.
Martins walked forward first, taking the lead, showing initiative, which was a surprise.
“Hello, we’re looking for—” His words were cut off when the figures shot at them.
Except “shot” wasn’t quite the right word. They lifted their hands and stuff poured out of their fingertips, straight at the two agents. Bright blue and green, the ‘stuff’ zipped toward the junior agent first. Martins reacted faster than O’Shea thought he would, diving behind a hedge alongside the house. O’Shea used the SUV as a cover, his mind struggling to make sense of what he’d just seen.
“FBI Agents! Put your weapons down!” He fully expected them to react accordingly. Not so much, as it turned out.
They continued to send that sparkling crap toward both of the agents, which left the agents no other choice. Martins shot first, his aim way off the mark if the way the scarecrow in the field behind the figures jumped was any indication.
O’Shea leaned against the door and shot, his gun misfiring, not once or twice, but three times. “What the hell?”
Martins ran from the hedge across to a small pump house for better aim. Again though, his shots went wide—all four of them. This wasn’t possible.
Smoke continued to curl out around the house, but that wasn’t what stole his attention from the fire fight. It was the screaming.
O’Shea didn’t think, he just burst from behind the Jeep, firing at the figures as he ran. A spiral of blue hit him, absorbing into his skin, and he held his breath, stumbling with the anticipation of pain, loss of vision, something bad. But there was nothing. Blinking, he stood back up and looked around. There was only one figure left and it stood five feet from him. He raised his gun as Martins ran up beside him.
The cloaked figure tipped its head sideways, as if considering them both.
“Lower your hands,” O’Shea barked.
As if on cue the figure whipped its hands up, and O’Shea fired. He watched in horror as, in slow motion, the bullet curved almost ninety degrees to blow a hole in Martins’ forehead right next to him.
O’Shea froze, unable to comprehend what had happened, his mind reeling at the impossibility of what his eyes were telling him.
More screaming. Adamson was screaming for him, his partner was dead and the bullet was from his gun. His eyes flew back to where the figure had been, but it was gone along with the others.
In that moment, O’Shea felt his world spin out from under him; the only thing keeping him from losing it was the woman who cried out for his help. Holstering his gun, he pushed everything else away and ran toward her voice.
“Rylee. Scared,” Alex whispered, his body pressed hard against mine as we crept forward. The only chance we were going to have was to break out through the flames and hope to hell we didn’t catch fire. Not how I saw my day panning out when I got up that morning.
“I know, buddy. We’re going to run fast, around the house to the Jeep,” I said, scratching him behind the ear. “Understand?”
He huffed into the dirt. The smoke filled the room fast, my lungs ached, my eyes burning and my hope fading. If they, the bastards who’d taken India and attacked us here, had blocked the trap door, I doubted they would have left the cellar door to chance.
“Now,” I said, prepping my body to hit hard, hoping I was wrong, hoping the door wouldn’t be barred magically.
Our bodies hit in tandem and we were flung backwards, bitch slapped by the power that held the door against us. I grabbed the jug of salt water and flung it on the door, but it did nothing; the spell was on the other side.
Intermittently howling and choking on the smoke, Alex sat on the floor, tears streaming down his face.
Even with all the weapons I had, there was nothing to break through magical barriers. There’d never been a need, and we were about to die because I hadn’t been prepared.
I slumped to the floor, as a gunshot went off outside.
“What the hell?”
Alex answered. “Guns.” He paused. “Big guns. Man with gun here.”
Man with . . .
“O’Shea!” I screamed. “Here, we’re trapped!”
Another round of gunshots went off, then the sound of sirens. Shit, I’d never been so happy to have a constant tail from the agent that had tried to frame me for murder.
Coughing, I crouched back to the floor. Within moments, there was rattling on the cellar door and then it flung open. But it wasn’t O’Shea.
“Milly!” I ran up the steps and caught her in a hug. She was crying, her hands white with powdered salt. The fire raged behind her, but it wasn’t as close as I’d thought; the smoke had just been funneled toward us. Nice.
“I’m so sorry, Rylee.”
“Hey, you made it in time, that’s all that matters.” Alex ran around us in circles, yipping until O’Shea ran into view. The wind, the real wind and not some magicked wind, picked up and blew the smoke and fire back out into the wheat field. That wasn’t good either, but better than the alternative.
I turned to face him, putting Milly just behind me. I couldn’t help it; we were a team, but when it came to O’Shea’s anger, she didn’t deserve to get the brunt of it.
But he didn’t flare up. His face was pale, and it occurred to me he’d just seen magic for probably the first time in his life.
“Where’s mini-me?” I asked, hoping to shake him out of his stupor.
He stared blankly at me.
I stepped closer and touched his arm, the chill of his skin evident even through the shirt. “Where’s your partner?”
“Dead. I don’t . . .” He shook his head. “How did this happen?”
I wasn’t entirely sure what he was talking about. “Milly, what happened?”
“I knew you were in trouble, could feel the vibrations stronger than anything ever before.” She pushed a long strand of dark brown hair off her forehead to reveal eyes that at times could be a soft green, and when she was pissed deepened to an almost neon green that flashed. Right now they were as soft and gentle as I’d seen them in a long time.
She went on. “I came out to the house, but they had already trapped you. O’Shea and his partner showed up—”
“Those people attacked us, we shot at them and . . . .” O’Shea stared at me as if I was going to have the answers. Oh, this was not going to be good. “Our bullets swerved, came back and hit Martins, right in the forehead.”
“Was it your bullet that swerved back?” My mind already caught on to the implications.
O’Shea frowned. “What does it matter? He’s been killed in an impossible situation.”
The sirens were almost here. “Listen, there isn’t a lot of time. Think, O’Shea. You’re going to tell people the bullets did whatever the f**k they wanted, swerved back and shot your partner with YOUR bullet? You’re about to be implicated for murder.”
His face paled. “They won’t believe me.” He put a hand to his head. “I wouldn’t believe me.”
I couldn’t help it. “Just like you won’t believe me when it comes to Berget.”
Again, he just stared, his eyelids twitching as I watched emotions run across his face. Anger, fear, disbelief.