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Priceless(Rylee Adamson #1)(16) by Shannon Mayer

“How many rogues are we dealing with?” Together, we could take this group out, no problem.

“We aren’t dealing with them. I am. I am to be your liaison while you rescue India, that’s it. I will handle the black members,” she said. We both knew Milly was good—very, very good—at what she did. She had to be to have survived this long without a Coven to back her up. But no matter how good she was, even she couldn’t handle more than a few black witches at a time.

“Who’d you sleep with that you shouldn’t have?” I leaned back against the porch pillar.

She stood, her eyes flashing, and stomped her way into the house, yelling over her shoulder through the open door. “Shut up! You don’t know anything!”

“Do you love him at least?” I yelled back.

She paused in midstride, turning just her face back toward me, one hand on the kitchen table. “Yes.”

“Is he worth it?”

“Yes.”

I shrugged. “Well, then at least we know we won’t both die in vain if it’s for true love.” I was betting it was anything but love. More like a serious case of the lusting hormones; that was Milly. She was a good friend, but I would hate to be one of the men who thought she loved them, and only them.

“Okay, so it was a fling,” she said with a huff. “But seriously, how was I to know he was engaged to the Coven leader’s daughter? He wasn’t wearing a sign or anything.”

I groaned. It couldn’t get any worse.

Nope, wrong again. Alex trembled, and I turned to face where he was looking. There, galloping across the burnt field was the werewolf pack, teeth flashing as they howled their intent.

“They come to kill Alex. Stay till Alex is dead,” he whispered.

16

“Time to go.” I said, leaping to my feet and running through the house.

Milly trotted after us. “What’s happening?”

“Pack, come. Kill,” Alex said.

No more questions, we piled into the Jeep and spun out as the first of the pack hit the edge of the lawn. Snarling and howling, I knew they could scent not only Alex, but the blood from my stitches too. Not to mention the pool of blood from Martins’ death.

Alex lay in the back of the Jeep, panting with fear. Milly stared out the window as the front runner hit the side of the vehicle, almost tipping us over.

“Milly! Do something!” I yelled, battling with the steering wheel to keep up from going over. That would be bad on so many levels I didn’t even want to consider.

“I can’t. The pack has nothing to do with this case,” she whispered, staring straight out front.

“And if they attack you?” I snapped, finally gaining some distance from the pack as we sped down the road, the tires squealing as they went from dirt to the tarmac of the paved road leading into town.

Milly started to cry. “I can’t defend myself unless it’s directly linked to the case or I’ll be removed from the Coven and will be considered a rogue worthy of decapitation.”

“Shit,” I muttered. “That’s just freaking fantastic. So you mean you’re basically just a throwaway?”

She stiffened in her seat. “What did you call me?” We both knew she’d heard me; we’d been friends too long not to know exactly what was going down.

I took a left and headed toward Bismark. We needed more than just a motel to keep the pack off our scent, and I needed a place I could get some info. I didn’t have time to pamper Milly, much as she was my friend.

“You damn well know what a throwaway is. You’re just going to get in the way, and cause more harm than good unless I’m using you for a shield. For them to put that restriction on you WAS a death sentence and you know it. Those bastards don’t care about you, Milly!” I was shouting by the time I finished.

Alex was whispering in the back seat. “No fighting, no fighting.”

“Stop this car right now. I am not a throw away,” Milly said, her voice as cold as a chunk of ice pressed against my skin.

“It’s not a car, it’s a Jeep.” I glanced in the rear-view mirror. No werewolves galloping behind us. That was a plus.

“PULL THE FUCKING JEEP OVER!”

Well, that was a first. Both for the “F” bomb, and the screaming. I didn’t pull the Jeep over. “Milly, I don’t think you’re a throwaway, but that’s how they’re treating you.”

I drove for another fifteen minutes on the main highway doing well over 60mph, checking the mirror for a pack of werewolves galloping behind us before I pulled over, though it was still reluctantly. “If you still want to go, then go. You aren’t a throwaway.”

She got out, her hands shaking as she held the door open with both hands, almost as if she were holding herself up. “I know that. But they’re everything I’ve fought so hard to have. And I need them. They have training techniques I can’t learn anywhere else. I need to be a part of the Coven. They need to be my family now.”

“And if they end up killing you? What then?”

“They won’t let me die,” she said, though her voice wavered. “Goodbye, Rylee.”

She shut the door and started to walk down the shoulder, her thumb out. I waited until the first farm truck rumbled into view and she hopped in.

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that, Milly.” I couldn’t deal with that loss right now. At the very least, she’d helped me to pinpoint the “who” behind India’s disappearance. A rogue Coven. That only made me feel slightly better about the case. It wasn’t identical to Berget’s, but still . . . .

Checking my mirrors for cars and rampant werewolves, I pulled back onto the road when all was clear. As I drove, I wracked my brain for everything I knew about the Coven, or Covens in general.

“Okay, Alex. What do we know about witches?”

He grunted and slithered up to the front seat. “Milly.”

“Yes, Milly is a witch.” My heart ached more than a little. “Coven’s have any number of people, but the core of them is always thirteen. Which means we’re dealing with at least thirteen rogue witches. Yay.”

Alex lifted his head and laughed. “Yay!” My sarcasm was lost on him completely.

On the open road, fields spilling out around us, I concentrated on what I had. I needed to find a deep mineshaft, needed to be prepared to face down the rogue Coven and, on top of that, avoid the pack that was probably setting up camp at my house, waiting for us to get back. And that’s where all my gear was.

I stopped at the first hotel we came to, one I’d used a few times in the past. Running in, I booked a room in under three minutes. The fear that the pack would be on us if I left Alex by himself was strong, even though they didn’t appear to be following us anymore, I wasn’t taking any chances. Losing one friend in any given day was enough for me, particularly considering how few I had. Room key card in hand, I drove the Jeep into the underground parking, a large sheeted metal door closing behind us. Now the trick was going to be getting Alex into the room without being seen.

“Come on, we’ve got some flights to run up.”

Alex gave a soft woof, his tail wagging as the flight from his rampaging pack mates was already forgotten.

Using the stairwell, keeping a hand on Alex’s collar, we sprinted up the three flights with no problem. Peeking into the carpeted hotel hallway from the stairwell, I could see our room was at the far end. “Ready?”

He bobbed his head. “Yup.”

I couldn’t help but laugh, and for that alone, he was worth the pain in my ass he caused with all his pack issues. Sprinting again, we ran to our room, the key card in my hand and sliding through the lock before I’d come to a full stop, which meant we slammed through the door in a heap. Alex laughed and tried to start a wrestling match with me.

“Nope, not right now,” I said, pushing him off me, the scratches on my arms a reminder of how lucky I was to be immune.

Flicking on the TV, I said, “You stay here, be quiet. I’ll be right back.” Alex ignored me as he leapt onto the king-sized bed and flopped down facing the TV.

Two trips later, I had brought up my overnight bag as well as a range of weapons from my Jeep. No way was I going anywhere else without them. For that matter, I was going to sleep in my flak jacket.

Next on the list was finding that mineshaft.

I dialed in Kyle’s number from memory, hoping my little hacker was still up. A groggy hello answered the phone.

“Kyle, can you look up mineshafts for me around here?”

“Hello to you too, Rylee,” he grumbled. A shuffling of papers and then I could hear him typing on the keyboard. “Lots of mineshafts, anything in particular?”

“Deep ones, two hundred feet or better,” I said, switching the channels to a local news station.

“Only four that deep that I can find. Mines are deeper, but you just want the shaft?” His voice became clearer the longer we spoke.

“Yes. Send it here. I gotta go.”

I gave him the hotel’s fax number and hung up, not wanting to stay on longer than we had to and chance either a tap or a power failure due to my proximity. Plopping the phone back into its cradle, I stared at the TV. It was the main story that caught my eyes.

“FBI AGENT KILLS PARTNER IN COLD-BLOODED MURDER, THEN ESCAPES.”

“You’re in deep shit now, O’Shea,” I said.

“Gun man in trouble?” Alex’s voice picked up in intensity.

I stroked his head, soothing him. “Maybe.”

The news reporter came on, her voice pitched all wrong for TV. The gist of it was that on transport, O’Shea (though they didn’t name him) overpowered his guards and stole the unmarked car following the police cruiser he was in. The pictures looked like a bomb had gone off, like some high-end movie production chase scene had gone horribly wrong. Cars flipped over, debris everywhere, not to mention the people gawking at the edges of the scene as the helicopter flew overhead.